Parents file lawsuit in grease trap death of child

AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) - The family of a 3-year-old Auburn girl, who drowned after falling into a grease trap at Bruster's in Auburn, is filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by the parents of Sadie Grace Andrews in Lee County Circuit Court. Sadie's parents have not spoken publicly about the lawsuit, but they did speak with news three shortly after Sadie died.

"It is our fervent prayer that Sadie's life, that people would really sense by the word of our testimony about her, God's love for them and that God's the God of beginning again and again and again," Corrie Andrews said.

Back on October 14th during a family outing to get ice-cream at the Auburn Bruster's, Sadie was playing with her siblings when she fell into a grease trap and drowned in a pit of sludge.

"We prayed for a miracle, but it just didn't happen that day. We're thankful for the three years we had, but after I saw that, I knew what had happened. She stepped on it. The lid wasn't fastened. She stepped on it, fell in, the lid flipped and did a 180 and landed right back over the hole," Tracy Andrews told News 3.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Thursday in Lee County Circuit Court. The suit alleges grease tank cover was in poor condition, not locked or maintained and the condition of the property caused the tank to be hidden, creating a dangerous trap. Bruster's Ice Cream Inc. is named as a defendant, as is Tuf-Tite, Inc., the maker of the plastic covering of the grease trap.

The Andrews are represented by Beasley Allen Law Firm, who released the following statement:

Beasley Allen Law Firm has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Corrie and Tracy Andrews, parents of 3-year-old Sadie Grace Andrews, who drowned after falling into a grease trap located at Bruster's Real Ice Cream in Auburn, Alabama, last October. The Andrews family is represented by Beasley Allen attorneys J. Cole Portis, Greg Allen and Jere Beasley.

Two grease-holding tanks were installed in a landscaped picnic area adjacent to Bruster's building. During the family's outing at the ice cream parlor, Sadie was playing with her siblings in the grassy area. As she ran across the grass, she stepped on a hidden grease trap covering and fell into the 6-foot deep, inground grease pit full of sludge. The grease trap cover was in poor condition. After Sadie fell into the grease trap, the covering immediately flipped back in place so that no one was able to locate her. When she was discovered, efforts to revive the child were unsuccessful.

Bruster's, which was responsible for maintaining the property, is one defendant. Tuf-Tite, Inc., the maker of the plastic covering of the grease trap, is another defendant. This company manufactured a defective product that was dangerous. Tuf-Tite sold a safety lid/pan as optional equipment. The purpose of designing this lid/pan was to "help prevent anyone (especially children) from falling into" the system. Mr. Portis remarked that "safety must never be optional."

"The Andrews family is a close-knit family. This family outing to eat ice cream turned into a parent's worst nightmare, and it should never have happened," said Portis. "Sadie Grace Andrews died needlessly, but her death will not be in vain. Already, many lives have been affected by the faithful testimony of the Andrews family. This lawsuit is being filed to ensure other children do not needlessly die. Further, the expectation is that these entities that caused Sadie's death will accept responsibility for their failures and become safer companies."

The complaint alleges that the toddler's tragic death occurred because the grease trap, its cover and potentially component parts were unreasonably dangerous and defective. It was not equipped with quality materials, locking devices, guards, or devices to prevent unintended entry into the grease tank. It also alleges that the condition of the property caused the device to be hidden and an extremely dangerous trap.

Additional defendants include Frey-Moss Structures, Inc., Budget Rooter, LLC, and Eagle Creamery, Inc., J & L Contractors, Bringham Hide & Talow Company, City of Auburn.

News 3 is trying to get comments from the multiple defendants named in the lawsuit. The legal action comes just a few weeks after Governor Kay Ivey signed the Sadie Grace Andrews Act into law, requiring all Alabama businesses to have locked and secure lids on their grease traps.

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