Family files lawsuit against MLGW in relative's 2011 heat death

Johnson's family has filed a lawsuit against MLGW for their loved one's heat related death (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Johnson's family has filed a lawsuit against MLGW for their loved one's heat related death (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A family is suing MLGW, claiming the company is responsible for their relative's death from the heat six years ago.

Thursday, a judge ruled to reverse a decision in favor of MLGW.

The lawsuit claims MLGW is responsible for the death of a longtime sanitation worker for the City of Memphis in 2011.

Jerdean Johnson, a city of Memphis sanitation worker for 35 years, died of a heat stroke in August 2011. According to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Johnson's family, the temperature was 93 degrees inside his Orange Mound apartment at the time of his death.

"He's been working for the city for years and nobody know him," said Johnson's niece Lois Taylor when we first spoke to the family in 2011. "He can't get nothing until this happens."

His wife of 47 years said he was proud of his work.

"He never missed work. He loved going to work every day," Dean's wife Dorothy Johnson said.

The family claims 65-year-old Johnson was intellectually disabled and was denied utilities to his apartment by MLGW because he "lacked an adequate photo identification card."

Johnson didn't have a driver's license but did have a sanitation ID card, "showing him to also be an employee of the city of Memphis" and that was "certain to establish his identity."

Nonetheless, "he was denied utility service" for 18 months when he lived in apartment number 8 until the scorching summer heat led to his death.

"When I got the call. I knew that's what it was," Taylor said. "He couldn't read and write so a lot of times he was taken advantage of and I feel like this was one of those times."

"We've been asking him if he wanted to come to our house, but he didn't want to come," said niece Lorena Jackson. 'He didn't have his utilities on and it hasn't been on since he's been living there."

The family is seeking $1.5 million in the wrongful death suit. The decision by a judge Thursday sends the lawsuit back to the courts.

"It just bothers me so bad for him to go away like that," Johnson said.

But for the family, it's not about the money.

"I get a chance to tell him he won. He finally won something and everything worked out to his good because he deserves it," Taylor said.

We have reached out to MLGW and have not heard back yet.

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