An 80-year-old Florida woman, Anne Felton, died on September 7 after succumbing to a carbon dioxide leak at a Pooler, Georgia McDonald’s. Authorities believe carbon dioxide used to make soft drinks leaked into the women’s bathroom causing Felton’s death.
Emergency personnel were called to the McDonald’s shortly after Ms. Felton and Carol Berry, a 56-year-old resident of Florida, were found unconscious on the bathroom floor. An investigation revealed that a line used to funnel off excessive carbon dioxide into the outdoors became disconnected. This allowed carbon dioxide stored in tanks in the backroom to flow into the wall of the women’s bathroom. Investigators are still trying to determine how the line became disconnected.
In total, nine people were sickened as a result of the leak including three firefighters, an employee and a good smarten who rushed to the aide of Felton and Berry. Those sickened were taken to Memorial University Medical Center after complaining of dizziness and difficulty breathing — signs of breathing in high concentrations of carbon dioxide.
The franchisees of the McDonald’s, John and Monique Palmaccio, issued a statement last Wednesday explaining that the situation has been corrected. This incident, however, is not the only incident of its kind. On May 31, 2011, a pregnant McDonald’s employee in Phoenix, Arizona collapsed in a stairwell after breathing in carbon dioxide. Two of her rescuers also became sick. In 2005, an 18-year-old McDonald’s employee in Sandford, Florida died after helping a driver for a company that refills carbon dioxide tanks. The driver also died after trying to help the employee.
Under Georgia law, the McDonald’s in Pooler may be held liable for the wrongful death of Ms. Felton as well as the injuries sustained by Ms. Berry and any other patrons who were sickened. Wrongful death actions in Georgia allow the family of the deceased to recover the full value of their loved one’s life. This includes both an economic element, such as lifetime earnings, as well as the value of the person to his or her family.