Lawsuit Claims Decades of Research Destroyed as Cleaner Accidentally Shuts Off Lab Freezer

Lawsuit Claims Decades of Research Destroyed as Cleaner Accidentally Shuts Off Lab Freezer

Severe Consequences Unfold as Beeping Lab Freezer Shutdown Results in Devastating Losses


A New York University has filed a $1 million lawsuit against a cleaning company after the school said a janitor in a lab accidentally destroyed more than 20 years of scientific research, according to a lawyer. An employee of Daigle Cleaning Systems was cleaning a laboratory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy on Sept. 17, 2020, when he shut off a circuit breaker that provided electricity to a freezer, says the lawsuit, which was filed June 16.

The freezer was holding cell cultures and samples that needed to be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius, or minus 112 Fahrenheit, according to the lawsuit. A fluctuation of 3 degrees could damage or destroy the samples, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, the cleaner, whose identity remains undisclosed, inadvertently turned off the lab freezer while attempting to address the persistent beeping noise emanating from the appliance. Unbeknownst to the cleaner, the freezer housed invaluable samples, specimens, and data critical to ongoing research spanning multiple decades.

The consequences of the freezer shutdown were disastrous, as sensitive materials and carefully preserved samples were subjected to thawing and spoilage. Researchers and scientists at the institution were left devastated by the loss, which not only eradicated years of meticulous work but also dealt a severe blow to ongoing projects and collaborations.


The affected research encompassed a wide range of scientific disciplines, including biomedical research, genetics, environmental studies, and more. The implications extend beyond the immediate financial losses, with profound setbacks in scientific advancements and potential setbacks for future discoveries.

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The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the institution, claiming that proper measures were not in place to prevent such accidents from occurring. It asserts that critical scientific assets should have been safeguarded with fail-safe mechanisms, alarm systems, and redundancy protocols to ensure the preservation of decades’ worth of research.

The incident raises important questions regarding the responsibility of institutions to protect scientific data and valuable samples. It also serves as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the need for robust protocols, regular maintenance checks, and staff training to prevent inadvertent mishaps that could have catastrophic consequences.

While the full extent of the losses incurred by the incident is yet to be quantified, the implications are far-reaching. The affected institution has expressed its deep regret for the incident and is actively cooperating with the legal proceedings. Efforts are underway to salvage any remaining data and salvageable samples, although the chances of fully recovering the extensive research are slim.


The case has garnered significant attention within the scientific community, sparking discussions surrounding proper storage practices, facility management, and the importance of disaster preparedness. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the delicate nature of scientific progress and the need for stringent measures to safeguard years of invaluable research.

As the lawsuit unfolds, researchers and scientists worldwide reflect on the fragility of their own work and reevaluate the systems in place to protect scientific achievements. The incident will undoubtedly have a lasting impact, driving the development of enhanced safeguards and protocols to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.

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In conclusion, the accidental shutdown of a beeping lab freezer has led to the alleged destruction of decades of invaluable research, leaving the scientific community in disbelief. The lawsuit filed against the institution sheds light on the need for improved safety measures and serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between scientific progress and potential loss. The incident’s long-term consequences will prompt discussions and changes to protect the integrity of scientific research for years to come.

The lawsuit accuses the cleaning company of negligence and not providing adequate training to employees even though it knew that the lab contained “highly specialized and delicate equipment, cell cultures and samples.” The lawsuit is seeking damages of around $1 million to cover the cost of reproducing the research, Ginsberg said. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a private technological research university.


Troy is about 10 miles northeast of Albany.

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