The wife of the man found dead inside a walk-in beer cooler at SunTrust Park last year has filed a wrongful death suit, which claims the Atlanta Braves and business partners at the park were aware of carbon dioxide leaks and a faulty door mechanism the widow believes led to her husband’s death.
Angela Keeling, wife of Marvin “Todd” Keeling, 48, whose body was discovered in the cooler on June 26, 2018, filed the lawsuit in Fulton County State Court on Friday.
Beth Marshall, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta Braves, said the organization would not comment on the ongoing litigation.
Peter Law, of Law & Moran, the Atlanta law firm representing Angela Keeling in the suit, did not respond to requests for comment.
According to the suit, Todd Keeling, a Minnesota father of four, was installing a beer tap inside the cooler in section 331 at SunTrust Park when a beer pump began leaking carbon dioxide. When he attempted to leave the cooler, a faulty door trapped him inside, according to the court documents.
Results of an autopsy performed by the Cobb Medical Examiner indicated Todd Keeling died of asphyxia due to carbon dioxide exposure, Ross Cavitt, a spokesman for Cobb County government, told the MDJ last year. Later investigations also stated the cooler’s door may have jammed, preventing a quick escape.
Angela Keeling’s suit claims Braves partners responsible for construction, installation and management of the beer draft systems inside the cooler sent emails showing knowledge of both the leaking beer pump and malfunctioning door prior to Todd Keeling’s death.
“Defendants had actual and constructive knowledge that cooler doors were malfunctioning, to include Cooler 331, and that the cooler doors had a faulty, misassembled, and/or malfunctioning interior release mechanism, such that persons could become and had in fact been trapped inside of the cooler(s). ... Defendants had actual and constructive knowledge of carbon dioxide leaks in the entire distribution system, to include Cooler 331, and the associated hazards, but negligently allowed the leaks to remain unabated,” the lawsuit states, adding that a carbon dioxide monitoring system that could have warned of the danger was not in place.
The lawsuit states that, as a result of the defendants’ negligence, as well as the product defects, “Todd Keeling sustained physical and emotional injuries, and was aware and conscious of his impending death.”
Testing by the Cobb County Fire Department as part of an investigation found the concentration of carbon dioxide in the cooler rapidly increased after equipment inside had been turned on. Investigators found no evidence Todd Keeling tried to use the door or the working cellphone he had with him, but reports stated that was likely due to his becoming “so disoriented he was unable to form and act on logical thought processes.”
Angela Keeling seeks payment of medical, funeral and burial expenses, as well as compensation for pain and suffering, among other compensation, according to the complaint.
The suit also opens the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, which owns the land where SunTrust Park sits, to possible litigation. However, since it is an “out-of-possession owner,” which turned over operation of the stadium to the defendants, action against the authority is “not anticipated,” according to the court documents.
The Braves organization has not yet filed a response, according to Fulton County State Court records.
Todd Keeling was the president and founder of Draftwell, a bar system design company claiming faster pours and more profit for purveyors of draft beer, according to its website. The company issued a statement mourning his loss two days after his death.
The Atlanta Braves announced that same month they and Delaware North Sportservice, another defendant named in the ongoing lawsuit, had partnered with Draftwell to install Todd Keeling’s beer tap invention throughout the park.
But in February, another statement on Draftwell’s site announced the company would suspend operations “for the foreseeable future.”
“The day-to-day operations of the company in the absence of Todd Keeling, founder and president, has been more difficult than initially thought, and a viable replacement has not been found,” the statement reads.