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Family of woman killed by falling bottled-water pallets files suit

August 31, 2010

The estate of a woman who died after pallets of bottled water fell on her at a Kroger store in Franklin is suing the bottler, suggesting a new eco-friendly bottle design may have contributed to the accident.

Lori Keen, 32, died March 20, five days after two pallets of Ice Mountain water weighing a total of about 4,100 pounds fell on her. Keen, a 13-year Kroger employee, had been working in the store's receiving dock and had stacked two pallets, each containing 72 cases of 24 half-liter bottles, on a forklift.

Keen's estate, led by her widower Billie, filed suit against Nestle Waters North America Inc., based in Indianapolis, on Aug. 5 in Marion Superior Court. The case moved to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Aug. 25, at Nestle's request, after the plaintiffs acknowledged they are seeking more than $75,000.

The suit alleges Nestle failed to instruct its customers on the danger of stacking pallets and the increased "collapse/toppling risks" associated with its introduction of Eco-Shape bottles, which Nestle bills as the lightest on the market.

"As a direct and proximate result of defendant Nestle's negligent acts and omissions, Lori suffered fatal injuries, her estate incurred medical bills, funeral and burial expenses and is entitled to damages," according to the suit, brought by locally based Cohen & Malad LLP. "Lori's husband, Billie, and their daughter have suffered the loss of support, services, society, love, affection and acts of kindness of Lori."

Nestle, represented by locally based Frost Brown Todd LLC, has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit. Company officials did not immediately respond to inquiries.

State regulators in April slapped Kroger Co. with a $17,000 fine relating to workplace safety violations tied to the accident.

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