- The children of a woman who died in a Louisiana Arby’s earlier this month are suing for negligence.
- The lawsuit alleges that Nguyet Le died because a broken freezer lock left her locked inside while she was alone in the restaurant.
- The suit also claims that several managers were aware that the lock had been broken for at least nine months before Le’s death.
The family of a woman who died earlier this month after she was locked inside a freezer in a Louisiana Arby’s is suing the restaurant chain and the store’s franchise owners for negligence and wrongful death.
Local police confirmed to Insider’s Grace Mayer earlier this month that a woman later identified as 63-year-old Nguyet Le was found dead in the freezer of an Arby’s in New Iberia, Louisiana. The lawsuit — filed Thursday by Les’ four children in district court in Harris County, Texas, where the family lives — provides new details about the events that led to her death, including allegations that a lock on the freezer door had been deliberately broken for months.
According to court documents, Le worked for Turbo Restaurants, a subsidiary of Sun Holdings, which operates hundreds of franchise locations for chains around the country, including Arby’s, Burger King and Applebee’s, among others.
She was general manager of an Arby’s in Houston, and was given a temporary assignment in February to oversee the New Iberia location, about 140 miles away. Months before Le arrived, employees at the New Iberia Arby’s reported to their district and regional managers that the lock on the front freezer door had been broken since at least August 2022, the suit says.
Employees allegedly used a screwdriver to pry open the door, often propping the door open with a box so the freezer, kept at -10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower according to company guidelines, wouldn’t close completely, according to court documents.
On the morning of May 11, Le arrived before other employees, including her son, Nguyen, were scheduled to open the restaurant at 10 a.m., the suit says. While performing the usual opening duties, Le became trapped in the freezer and was unable to open the door, until Nguyen and other employees arrived to find her dead. Preliminary autopsy findings indicating she died of hypothermia.
According to the suit, the officer who investigated the scene and ruled the death an accident found blood on the inside of the freezer door, which he believed meant she “panicked when she was locked in and slapped her hands bloody in an attempt to escape or get someone’s Note the following.”
“Finally, she collapsed in the fetal position face down on the frozen floor,” the suit says.
Les children are seeking at least $1 million in damages, alleging that Arby’s and its franchisees were negligent by failing to inspect and repair the broken freezer for at least nine months.
Paul Skrabanek, the attorney representing Le’s family, told Louisiana news station KLFY that one of the reasons the family decided to sue is because Arby’s has reportedly stopped responding to his legal communications.
Arby’s did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent Sunday afternoon, but an earlier statement about the incident is quoted on Skrabanek’s website.
“We are aware of the incident that took place at our franchise location in New Iberia, LA,” Arby’s said in a statement. “The franchisee is fully cooperating with local authorities as they conduct their investigation. As this is an active investigation, we are deferring further comment to the police department.”
Read the full lawsuit:
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