Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, faced a severe setback when a janitor at one of its labs reportedly turned off a storage freezer. The freezer contained cell cultures, samples and other items stored at -112 degrees Fahrenheit, but they were all ruined when the temperature suddenly rose to -25.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
A New York Post report claims a US private research institute has launched a lawsuit against a cleaner who disrupted scientific progress by cutting power to a super-cold freezer.
The cleaner’s actions were prompted by the annoyance of a persistent beep, which led them to flip a switch in the laboratory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York.
Unfortunately, this act destroyed valuable research accumulated over several decades, for damages estimated at no less than $1 million (approximately ₹8.1 crores), the Post reported.
In response, the research institute has directed the lawsuit against the third-party cleaning service, the provider of the janitor responsible for the incident.
“People’s behavior and negligence caused all of this. Sadly, they put an end to 25 years of investigation.” Michael Ginsberg, the institute’s attorney, was quoted in the outlet as saying.
The freezer contained cell cultures, samples and other items stored at -112 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the cleaner turned off the switch, the temperature rose to -25.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the institute’s lawsuit, the event occurred in September 2020.
In the report, RPI representatives claimed that there is a sign on the freezer door that explains the source of the alarm and provides instructions on how to silence it.
RPI staff mentioned in the report that the worker mistakenly believed he was turning the switch on instead of turning off the freezer.
“Most of the specimens were compromised, destroyed and rendered unsalvageable, demolishing more than 20 years of research,” according to the Post report, which contains excerpts from the lawsuit.
According to RPI’s lawyer, reproducing the work that the incident destroyed will cost $1 million. The research reportedly focused on photosynthesis and had potential implications for the development of solar panels.
According to the Post report, Derek Foster, president of the Albany-based cleaning service, has not commented on the matter.
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