Dec. 29, 2015 By Michael Florio
A wrongful death suit is in the works against Burger King following the demise of a woman at its Jackson Heights location three months ago.
Shirley McCarthy, 47, died after suffering from seizure-like symptoms inside the bathroom at the 37-07 82nd Street store on Sept. 27.
The lawsuit, which will be filed by her family, will claim that the type of lock installed on the bathroom door was responsible for her death. The bathroom had a latch lock instead of a key lock, and the latch prevented people from coming to McCarthy’s aid, according to attorney Michael Lamonsoff.
The incident occurred after McCarthy was feeling sick and went into the bathroom and locked the door, according to Lamonsoff.
People then heard screaming from the bathroom after McCarthy had fallen to the ground and was unable to get up and unlock the door. Her boy friend tried to help her but with little luck he had to ask management for help, according to Lamonsoff.
“They [management] couldn’t open the door,” Lamonsoff said.
They tried using a crowbar and hammer to open the door, but it only pulled out the doorknob, according to Lamonsoff.
The police were then called and EMS responded to the scene, and communicated with McCarthy through the door, but could still not get in to provide treatment.
“She couldn’t get up, she was having some type of seizure,” Lamonsoff said.
The FDNY then responded and axed open the door. At this point EMS was able to get to McCarthy, who was unresponsive at this point, according to Lamonsoff.
McCarthy was transported to a local hospital where she was announced brain dead. She was taken off life support just weeks later, Lamonsoff said.
The lawsuit will claim that the latch lock prevented McCarthy from getting the help she needed until the door was axed down. The delay played a key factor in her death.
“It makes absolutely no sense to have a lock that no one can unlock besides the person inside,” Lamonsoff said.
Lamonsoff said it is reasonably foreseeable that an emergency situation like this could occur, since when someone is feeling ill they run to the bathroom.
“It doesn’t make sense to have a door that is inaccessible by management with a key,” he said. “Management had no way of getting into that bathroom.”
“The family is angry,” Lamonsoff said. “They don’t want it to happen to anyone else. It is totally preventable.”
The family is not suing for a specific amount. Instead, the jury will ultimately have to decide if and how much the family should be rewarded.
“I can’t put a price on a human life and in New York you don’t have to,” Lamonsoff said. “Her peers will make the decision on how much her life was worth to her and the people she left behind.”
The lawsuit will become official after McCarthy’s family is granted access to her estate, Lamonsoff said. He called this step a technicality and expects it to occur within the next two months.
Burger King would not comment on the impending lawsuit.
“We extend our sincere condolences to the family of Shirley McCarthy for their loss,” a Burger King Corp. spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.
“As a matter of policy, the BURGER KING® brand does not comment on any claims involving franchised BURGER KING® restaurants, which are independently owned and operated by BURGER KING® franchisee.”
The owner of the Burger King franchise could not be reached for comment.