In an apparent attempt to turn off a beeping noise he allegedly deemed annoying, a janitor turned off the breaker to a freezer that contained extremely valuable cell cultures, samples, and other research.
The freezer, which was set to minus-112 degrees Fahrenheit, as the Times Union reports, warmed up to a catastrophic minus-25.6 degrees, damaging and destroying much of the decades of work.
At least, that's what happened according to a lawsuit filed by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute lab against the janitor's employer.
"People’s behavior and negligence caused all this," Michael Ginsberg, RPI’s attorney, told Times Union. "Unfortunately, they wiped out 25 years of research."
Do Not Unplug
According to Ginsberg, the simple mistake caused $1 million in damages and could even alter the university's efforts to develop solar panel technologies.
The beeping was caused by the freezer being slightly above the temperatures it should have been set to, which wasn't far off enough to damage the samples. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a technician wasn't able to come to repair the freezer, which meant that the beeping went on for quite some time.
The freezer door even had a letter pinned to it warning that "THIS FREEZER IS BEEPING AS IT IS UNDER REPAIR. PLEASE DO NOT MOVE OR UNPLUG IT."
According to court documents, the janitor thought he had turned the breaker on instead of off.
All in all, there was no ill intent, despite the considerable damage.
"At the end of the interview, he still did not appear to believe he had done anything wrong but was just trying to help," a writeup of the university's investigation reads.
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