Four siblings in Texas are suing Arby’s for both negligence and wrongful death of 63-year-old Nguyet Le, their mom and an employee of an Arby’s franchise, was found dead inside a walk-in freezer at the Arby’s location.
The lawsuit, filed last Thursday in the Harris County, TX, district court, alleges that the restaurant’s franchise operators knew about the faulty freezer door latch that trapped her in the frozen tomb yet did nothing to fix the problem.
A former employee at the New Iberia, TX, Arby’s location in which Le died alleges in the lawsuit brought by her children that the latch on the freezer door was broken since August of 2022. According to the former employee, workers had to use a screwdriver to open and close the freezer door and would keep it open with a box of oil. The former employee also alleges that management, including the regional manager, was shown the problem in person yet did nothing to fix it. The freezer was kept at 10 degrees below zero, if not colder, per Arby’s policy.
Le then, on May 11th, got trapped inside the freezer after arriving early to open the Arby’s. She died from hypothermia and her son Nguyen found her, as the lawsuit states, providing, “Tragically, the employee to find Ms. Le’s body was her son, Nguyen. He did so after coming in for his shift at approximately 10 a.m.”
The lawsuit goes on to allege that those in charge did not fix the faulty latch that caused Le’s death, saying, “Turbo Restaurants had knowledge of an extremely dangerous condition at its restaurant since at least August 2022. However, they acted with conscious indifference in failing to repair the latch for nearly 9 months. This was the cause in fact and proximate cause of Ms. Le’s death.”
The heart-wrenching lawsuit also details her attempts to escape the freezer, saying, “During the time she was dropped offand other employees arrived for work, Ms. Le got trapped in the walk-in freezer. The investigating officer relayed that inside of the door of the freezer had been bloodied leading him to conclude Ms. Le panicked once locked inside and beat her hands bloody trying to escape or get someone’s attention. Ultimately, she collapsed into a fetal position face down on the frozen floor. The preliminary autopsy findings were hypothermia as the cause of death.”
The lawsuit also describes the level of control that Arby’s had over the management of the facility, including over day-to-day matters and management training, so as to try and paint it as liable in part for Ms. Le’s death. That would likely allow the plaintiffs to recover a larger sum if the lawsuit is successful.
A spokesperson for Inspire Brands, which owns Arby’s, said, “We are aware of the tragic incident that took place at our franchised location in New Iberia, LA. The franchisee is cooperating fully with local authorities as they conduct their investigation. Due to this being an active investigation, we defer any further comment to the state police department.“
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