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Business interruption: years of research lost at the flick of a switch

A freezer is unwittingly unplugged, the building where you have lab space allocated suffers a flood or fire, or there’s a data loss following a cyber-attack, where does that leave you?  

These might sound hypothetical scenarios but a legal case in the US demonstrates the impact of a very real situation, as the BBC has reported.   

Lawyers for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York have claimed that a cleaner has destroyed decades of “ground-breaking” work after turning off a freezer to stop an “annoying” beeping noise. 

In September 2020, the alarm for the freezer went off to alert a 3C temperature rise. Although this change in temperature could have been catastrophic, Professor Lakshmi, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, determined that the samples were not being compromised at that time. 

Due to Covid restrictions in place at that time, the repairs could not be carried out immediately and so a sign was placed on the door reading: 

“This freezer is beeping as it is under repair. Please do not move or unplug it. No cleaning required in this area. You can press the alarm/test mute button for 5-10 seconds if you would like to mute the sound.” 

However, days later, a cleaner working in the laboratory reportedly turned off the circuit breaker providing electricity to the freezer.  

The temperature allegedly rose by 50 degrees to approximately -30C by the time the power disruption was discovered. According to the legal case, the majority of specimens were “compromised, destroyed and rendered unsalvageable, demolishing more than 20 years of research”. 

RPI is seeking a trial and is pursuing the cleaning firm for $1 million in damages, plus legal fees. 

The insurance situation has not been reported on – but what if this was your laboratory and your samples? 

Do you have adequate business interruption insurance to cover the impact of such an event?  

And if your business comes to a standstill as a result, what happens to your team of highly skilled individuals – do they have certainty in their employment with you? 

A resilient business will be able to deal with these issues because they would have a plan in place and the right business interruption insurance to get back up and running as soon as possible.  

Whilst insurance cannot replace lost research, it can help your business get back on track.  

Talk to our team to find out more about how business interruption insurance and having a business continuity plan go hand in hand to keep you moving forward when a disaster strikes.