In Taiwan, McDonald’s condemned to pay $700,000 for the death of a restaurant employee who didn’t wear warm clothes

A Taiwanese court ruled that McDonald’s in 2010 failed to ensure the safety of a restaurant employee who fainted after having moved more than one metric ton of food to the freezer in 40 minutes and died in hospital five months later.

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In 2010, Li Yuanrui, 23, had a part-time student job at McDonald’s in Kaohsiung, a port city of 2.7 million people in the south of Taiwan.

But one day, Li Yuanrui fainted as he was moving and sorting food in the freezer with other colleagues. He regained consciousness briefly and was able to answer questions. The restaurant manager then called a taxi so that the employee could go to the hospital. He stayed in hospital for five months and died there on October 2010 of a septic shock due to a central nervous infection caused by cranial internal hemorrhage.

More than a decade later, Taiwan Kaohsiung District Court ruled on January 4 that McDonald’s failed to set up sufficient safety measures in the workplace and was negligent, causing the death of Li Yuanrui. The defendant claimed the death was a spontaneous brain hemorrhage that was not caused by a severe accident, a short-term or long-term workload and that it didn’t constitute an occupational injury.

The Bureau of Labor Insurance of the Ministry of Labor had actually originally considered there was no work accident according to the medical reports. But the parents of Li Yuanrui refused the conclusions. And doctors from the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Department of Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital believed after an examination of the work schedule what happened to the employee that day was an occupational injury caused by work overload.

Li Yuanrui worked in the kitchens of McDonald’s Kaohsiung Yisin restaurant 8 hours a day without a shift, two to three days a week, usually on Saturdays and Sundays, every week from September to May.

The day he passed out on May 2010, Li Yuanrui moved 1.1 (metric) ton of food, boxes of frozen French fries and potato cakes, to the freezer in only 40 minutes. He went in and out of the freezer and alternated between hot and cold temperatures 48 times during that period. He stayed in low temperatures without wearing warm clothes for about 29 minutes, according to court documents.

After the new conclusions, the Bureau of Labor Insurance of the Ministry of Labor then accepted the death should be considered a work-related death. The parents filed a lawsuit against the fast food chain for negligence.

McDonald’s originally compensated the family with 40 months of salary and covered funeral expenses with five months of salary, totaling about 480,000 yuan (about 72,000 U.S. dollars at the time).

But judges considered the death was 70 percent McDonald’s fault because of the company’s negligence as it failed to inform about safety precautions and to supervise employees so that they wear warm clothes while working in the freezer. The court considered Li Yuanrui 30 percent at fault because he didn’t wear warm clothes.

McDonald’s needs to compensate parents 4.72 million yuan (696,000 U.S. dollars) for the death of their son. McDonald’s can appeal the ruling.

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