Family of Boca Raton woman fatally beaten, burned during washer and dryer delivery sues Best Buy

Lawsuit: Best Buy 'did nothing' to warn victim of third-party companies involved

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor, Parker Branton - Reporter

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The family of a 75-year-old woman who was fatally beaten and burned by a Hialeah man who delivered a washer and dryer to her Boca Raton home is suing Best Buy.

Attorneys and family members of Evelyn Smith Udell announced the filing of a wrongful-death lawsuit Friday against Best Buy, where she bought the washer and dryer, and the companies contracted to facilitate the delivery of the appliances.

"We learned that our beloved grandmother, wife, mother, mother-in-law and sister had been savagely beaten and burned," daughter-in-law Sloane Udell said.

"We learned that our beloved grandmother, wife, mother, mother-in-law and sister had been savagely beaten and burned," Evelyn Smith Udell's daughter-in-law, Sloane Udell, says during a news conference announcing a lawsuit against Best Buy.

Boca Raton police said Jorge Lachazo, 21, beat Smith Udell with a mallet and doused her with a chemical he found in the house, setting her on fire.

Police said Lachazo drove away in the delivery truck while his co-worker, David Gonzalez, called 911.
Smith Udell later died at Delray Medical Center.

Evelyn Smith Udell, 75, was fatally beaten and burned by a man who was hired to deliver and install a washer and dryer she bought from Best Buy.

According to the lawsuit, Best Buy retained third-party companies J.B. Hunt and XM Delivery to deliver and install the appliances.

The lawsuit claims Best Buy "did nothing" to warn Smith Udell that the delivery and installation services had been delegated to third-party companies that Best Buy "did nothing to investigate, supervise or oversee."

Instead, the lawsuit claims, the retail giant accepted the employees of J.B. Hunt and XM Delivery "as employees of Best Buy."

"If you're going to use the word 'best' before Best Buy, they should have the best background and daily monitoring in the industry," Morgan & Morgan attorney Nick Panagakis said.

The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

"Our regret for what happened is as deep today as it was on Aug. 19," Best Buy said in a statement. "If the family will accept it, we would very much like the opportunity to donate to the charity they have established. As importantly, we join with the Udell family in calling for legislation regarding mandatory background checks across the retail industry and any other reasonable steps that can be taken to ensure this kind of tragedy does not occur again."

The statement went on to say that background checks "have long been required by Best Buy and we are working with those we contract out to ensure that these checks are up-to-date and are done on a re-occurring basis."

"Additionally, we continue to work with an independent security firm to review the practices of all third-parties that we hire to do work on our behalf in customers' homes," the statement said.

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