At the conclusion of a three-week federal jury trial that ended last week, a Wyoming woman was awarded $28.5 million for her serious and permanent injuries suffered as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning arising from the faulty furnace in her apartment. The judgment included $2.7 million in compensatory damages and $25.5 million in punitive damages against the owner of the woman’s apartment complex and the management company it hired to manage the property.
The 30-year-old furnace in the woman’s apartment needed proper maintenance or replacement. The woman’s faulty furnace allowed carbon monoxide to enter her apartment in 2011, thereby causing the woman to suffer permanent brain damage that not only affects her memory, attention, concentration, and ability to multi-task, but also causes her to suffer chronic headaches and to have sleeping problems. The woman’s brain damage does not permit her to work or to attend college, as she was doing before her carbon monoxide poisoning injury. Her permanent injuries will require the woman to take medications for the rest of her life and will require other medical treatment.
The plaintiff’s attorneys alleged during trial that incident photographs and witness statements were fabricated, altered, or destroyed during the litigation as part of the defendants’ cover-up — the faulty furnace from the woman’s apartment also disappeared after the incident. Testimony during trial indicated that about one-half of the apartments in the woman’s apartment complex did not have working carbon monoxide detectors at the time of the woman’s poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant problem in the United States: about 50,000 people visit emergency rooms each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 1,000 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning each year in the United States.
Sad stories about people poisoned by carbon monoxide appear in the news all too often, especially during the winter months: on December 27, 2013, three people in Alaska had to be hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning due to a malfunctioning boiler at a nonprofit organization where there was no carbon monoxide detector (source); on the same day (December 27, 2013), two Minnesota men who were roommates died from carbon monoxide when a malfunctioning damper on their furnace malfunctioned, which allowed carbon monoxide to enter their living area (source); on December 29, 2013, a Missouri woman died from carbon monoxide that resulted from a fire in her apartment (source).
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be avoided if carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed, maintained, and operating at the time that the odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas enters areas where people are located. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning can be substantially reduced if equipment that produces carbon monoxide is properly installed, maintained, and repaired (such as heating systems that rely on combustion). When gasoline, natural gas, or propane generators are in use, they must be placed in a proper location that is adequately ventilated and never used in an enclosed garage or in enclosed area of the home. Charcoal grills must never be used indoors.
If you or a loved one suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate whether someone may be responsible for your injuries.
Click here to visit our website to complete a form so that you can be connected with lawyers in your state who may investigate your carbon monoxide poisoning claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a carbon monoxide case, if appropriate. You may also reach us on our toll-free line: 800-295-3959.
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