The owner of a California farm was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of a worker who was killed while servicing an unsafe spinach harvester.
Willoughby Farms and its owner, David Willoughby, were charged for causing the death of employee Carlos Jimenez Cruz.
On Oct. 15, 2020, Cruz was strangled to death when the hood on his clothing got caught in a spinning shaft on the 16,000-pound harvester, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
Willoughby was arraigned Nov. 7, 2023, on felony manslaughter charges. The company, which is based in Santa Clara County, was arraigned Nov. 8, 2023 on the same felony charges.
The allegations against Willoughby and his business include failing to:
- provide adequate training to employees, and
- cover the dangerous parts of a machine, resulting in the death of Cruz.
Willoughby is facing up to four years in prison while his company could see millions of dollars in fines for three related Labor Code violations.
“Employers have a basic responsibility to make sure their workers are safe,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “It is a tragedy and a crime when a person doing their job is injured or killed because an employer fails to pay attention to safety.”
This isn’t the first time an employer in Santa Clara County was charged for a workplace death. In 2015, an owner and project manager of a construction company were convicted of manslaughter after an unsupported trench collapsed and killed a worker. Both were sentenced to two years in prison.