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  4. Janitor destroyed 20 years of research in New York university by turning off freezer due to 'annoying alarms'

Janitor destroyed 20 years of research in New York university by turning off freezer due to 'annoying alarms'

According to the lawsuit, the freezer stored more than 20 years of research, comprising of cell cultures and samples that needed to be maintained at minus 80 degrees. It noted that a catastrophic damage could be caused to the research samples by even a measly three degree fluctuation in temperature.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee New York Published on: June 29, 2023 15:03 IST
The samples stored in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New
Image Source : AP The samples stored in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York suffered 'catastrophic damage'

In an astonishing development, a janitor at a private university in New York ruined over 20 years of research by simply turning off a freezer due to being disturbed by repeated alarms in September 2020, according to a lawsuit.

The lawsuit had been filed not against the janitor, but his employer Daigle Cleaning Systems Inc., by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, seeking USD 1 million in damages and legal fees, reported CNN.

According to the lawsuit, the freezer stored more than 20 years of research, comprising of cell cultures and samples that needed to be maintained at minus 80 degrees. It noted that a catastrophic damage could be caused to the samples by even a measly three degree fluctuation in temperature.

The alarms had reportedly went off after the temperature of the specimens had increased to minus 78 degrees, which was noticed by KV Lakshmi, a professor at the institute. While waiting for emergency repairs, Lakshmi's team had put a warning about the freezer alarms.

However, the janitor, owing to what he called 'annoying alarms', disconnected the freezer from electrical supply in an attempt to be helpful, causing the temperature to rise to minus 32 degrees. Despite the team's best efforts, majority of the specimens were "compromised, destroyed and rendered unsalvageable", said the university's lawsuit.

The university has blamed Daigle Cleaning Systems for not being able to properly train and supervise the janitor involved in destroying the research. "Defendant, by and through its negligent, careless, and/or reckless supervision and control of [the janitor], caused damage to certain cell cultures, samples, and/or research in the Lab," said the lawsuit filed by the university.

Michael Ginsberg, Rensselaer institute's attorney, said that the janitor's conduct was a result of "human error". "The core of the case, however, is that the cleaning company failed to adequately train their personnel. A cleaner should be trained to not attempt to remedy an electrical issue," he added.

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