Young man "left traumatised" after being locked unconscious in freezer

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Young man "left traumatised" after being locked unconscious in freezer

26th March 2012

A coffee shop worker who was left traumatised after collapsing unconscious inside a walk-in freezer has received £50,000 in an out of court settlement.

Arthur Keitch, an employer’s liability expert at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said his client, who is in his 20s, was working part-time as a sales assistant when his manager asked him to fetch some food from a basement freezer.

“When my client went to the basement, he couldn’t find the protective clothing which it was policy for all staff to wear whenever they used the walk-in freezer,” said Arthur, an associate with the firm. “He was however able to find a protective jacket which he wore before stepping inside.

“Once inside, he found the freezer in such a mess that he had to start moving several trolleys out of the way so he could find what he was looking for,” added Arthur. “When he finally found the items he needed, he suddenly felt faint and collapsed, striking his head on one of the trolleys and knocking himself out.”

Nearly two hours later, the young man regained consciousness and discovered to his horror that someone had shut the door behind him not realising anyone was inside. As soon as the freezer door had been closed, internal fans had automatically started up, bringing the temperature down to between minus 18-23 degrees.

“When my client came round, he was so disoriented and weak from the extreme cold that he couldn’t even open the door,” said Arthur. “Fortunately, he was able to find a panic button inside the freezer which he pressed before passing out again.

“When he was rescued, my client could barely see and was unable to stand or walk unaided,” added Arthur. “In addition, he was suffering from hypothermia, particularly to his face, fingers and toes as well as an injury to the back of his head.”

The man was taken by ambulance to hospital where an MRI scan revealed that an infection on the front of his brain caused by sinusitis was the most likely cause of his blackout. After eight days, during which time he was given antibiotics and underwent a number of neurological tests, he was sent home.

“After my client was discharged from hospital, he started having problems with his balance and vision,” said Arthur. “In addition, he began suffering persistent pains in his head and within three months had started regularly collapsing at work.

“Over the next couple of years, he suffered over 30 separate non-epileptic seizures which would render him unconscious for anything up to 25 minutes. Each time he came round, both his memory and vision would be severely affected - sometimes for up to 10 days at a time.

“After seeing a number of experts, the cause of his seizures was diagnosed as a psychiatric reaction to the trauma of his accident,” added Arthur. “The constant blackouts inevitably had a profoundly disruptive effect upon his work, studies and home life. His parents had to regularly supervise him, including having to be present whenever he was in the bath or shower; he was prevented from taking part in activities such as swimming, cycling and playing football and he had to take regular extended time off both work and his studies.”

The young man’s seizures abruptly ended, after two-and-a-half years, when he blacked out and struck his head on the side of a table, whilst visiting a specialist epilepsy clinic. When he regained consciousness, he had no memory whatsoever of any event prior to that time, he couldn’t recall anything about his childhood or previous life and he wasn’t even able to remember what his mother looked like or how to do his job.

“Fortunately, my client’s memory loss was short-lived and he is now able to return to work and his studies,” said Arthur. “This case highlights how unsafe it is to allow a young and inexperienced person with no previous training to access a walk-in freezer unaccompanied and without adequate protective clothing. It also illustrates just how massive an impact some psychological injuries can have on victims and their families and how such injuries can be just as debilitating as many physical injuries.”

After the company involved admitted liability, they installed warning signs on their walk-in freezer door and implemented strict rules whereby anyone entering the freezer must be accompanied by another individual at all times.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of accidents in the workplace.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.