The family of an Arby's restaurant manager who died in May after being locked inside a Louisiana freezer is suing the fast-food chain for negligence and wrongful death, alleging the company knew for months that the refrigerator door lock was broken and refused to repair it. local media reported.
The body of Nguyet Le, 63, was found on the morning of May 11 when his son, who also worked at the restaurant, arrived for his shift at 10 a.m., the family's lawyer, Paul Skrabanek, told local broadcaster KLFY. He died of hypothermia, according to authorities.
She had started her day earlier to solve some tasks before opening the store, according to the lawsuit.
"She got stuck in the freezer and tried to bang on the door until her hands were bloody. There was blood all over the door and then he collapsed into a fetal position before freezing his face to the ground," said Skrabanek, who described the scene as "horrific."
A restaurant from fast-food chain Arby's in a 2020 file photo.SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
She had been temporarily transferred from Houston, Texas, to the city of New Iberia, Louisiana, to run the premises. The tragedy occurred shortly before he finished his multi-week assignment and returned to his usual position.
Skrabanek said a former employee said the door lock had been broken since August 2022 and the company knew and didn't repair it. According to the lawsuit, the former worker explained that they used a screwdriver to open it and placed a box of oil so that the freezer, whose temperature was to be kept at -10 degrees Fahrenheit, would not close completely.
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"Turbo Restaurants (which manages the franchise) had knowledge of an extremely dangerous condition at its restaurant since at least August 2022," the lawsuit detailed. "However, they acted with conscious indifference by failing to repair the handle for almost [nine] months."
She was a widow and mother of four children, the eldest, Nguyen, was the one who found her dead. According to the letter, he has a disability and lived with his mother.
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The family, which is suing Arby's for negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death, is seeking $1 million in financial damages. According to their lawyer, the company has stopped responding to them.
The chain alleged, in a statement posted on Skrabanek's website, that it was aware of the incident and that the franchise owner "is cooperating fully with local authorities as they conduct their investigation. Because this is an active investigation, we defer any further comment to the police department."