Earlier this month, our Athens personal injury attorneys at Hall & Collins Injury Law have filed a lawsuit—on behalf of the plaintiff’s family—in a wrongful death case where a lady suffered the horrific experience of slowly freezing to death.
The woman became locked inside a walk-in freezer at a hotel where she worked in Atlanta because the inside release latch failed to open the freezer door. Unfortunately, her cries for help went unheard—and so did the noise from beating on the door. Her husband awoke around 2 a.m. to discover she had never made it home from work that evening.
He contacted the hotel where she worked, and they reviewed surveillance cameras showing her walk into the freezer but never come out. When the freezer door was opened, her body was found lying just inside the door, dead and frozen. She had beaten her hands bloody from banging on the door.
The manufacturer of the inside release latch provided a metal placard that stated “YOU CANNOT BE LOCKED INSIDE . . . This Release Will Always Operate to Open the Door.” Tragically, the placard and inside release button were smeared with blood from her battered hands.
When the freezer was inspected by OSHA, the inside release initially worked many times in a row. Then, it randomly quit working and the OSHA investigator also became trapped inside and had to be let out by someone opening the door from the outside. The inside release mechanism is allegedly a “SafeGuard Release,” which is manufactured by Kason Industries, Inc. who is a defendant in the lawsuit.
In September 2017, a young woman from Chicago was found dead in a walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel. She had attended a party on the ninth floor but then went missing.
After her family searched for her, the police didn’t locate her body until 20 hours later. The tragic story made national headlines.
The mother of the young lady filed a $50 lawsuit against the Rosemont hotel, the Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant, and security company Capital Security and Investigation. The lawsuit claims negligence due to the defendant’s failure to secure a walk-in freezer or perform a proper search when the woman went missing.
According to the lawsuit, the freezer involved in the woman’s death was unsecured and had an extremely faded sticker that contained instructions on how to release the door’s lock system. Several hotel employees noticed Jenkins wandering through the halls but failed to ask if she was lost. Furthermore, security failed to review security camera footage fast enough after the woman was initially reported missing.
Last year, a Minnesota man was found inside the beer freezer of SunTrust Park baseball stadium, just before the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds. He was the inventor of a technology that dispensed beer at a significantly faster rate than conventional methods and kept the beer cooler and fresher.
A county medical examiner determined he passed away due to asphyxia from carbon dioxide exposure. Being trapped in the freezer also results in the limited air supply—in addition to hypothermia due to the freezing temperatures. Investigators didn’t find evidence of the man using the door or his cell phone to escape, which could mean he became so disoriented that he couldn’t properly call for help.
Preventing Walk-In Freezer Deaths
To prevent walk-in freezer accidents, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends property owners ensure their freezers are equipped with a door latch used to open them from the inside or a panic bar, as well as an alternative exit aside from the freezer’s main door.
Further protection could involve the use of emergency buttons that let off an alarm system and even the use of motion sensors to unlock the freezer door they detect movement inside. However, many small businesses do not have the finances to make such improvements.
Despite having freezers equipped safety latches or alarm systems, these methods could still be prone to malfunction. Property owners are responsible for routine safety inspections to ensure their freezers are up to code.