Carbon monoxide poisoning usually occurs when a fumes from a flammable source collect in a confined space. The result can be wrongful death or permanent brain damage. When a faulty heating unit causes carbon monoxide poisoning, an entire family may be obliterated. When these injuries happen at a hotel or motel, the owner of the premises can be held liable for having faulty heating equipment, inadequate ventilation, or failure to place a CO monitor.
Preventing CO Poisoning
Modern equipment typically carries a shutoff valve that prevents CO poisoning. The safety valves may not be included on older equipment or in poorly-designed equipment. In these instances, a product manufacturer may be held liable for product liability.
A recent case in Columbus, Ohio illustrates the devastating consequences of defective equipment that includes a heat source. In 2018, 4 members of the family were found dead in their home as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning that resulted from a defectively manufactured tankless water heater.
Protection for Consumers
Under most states’ laws — because many of our manufactured goods are made of many different components, some of which may be manufactured overseas by companies that are beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. courts — suppliers can be held liable as if they are the manufacturer of the product. So, for example, if a brand name manufacturer assembles parts that are imported from China or Mexico then labels the product with their company name, the brand name manufacturer can be held liable for defects in the component parts, even though it did not actually manufacture those components. This protects American consumers from negligent companies that are beyond the jurisdiction of American courts.
With proper design, exhaust, and ventilation, carbon monoxide should never result in a wrongful death. In the Columbus case, the personal injury attorneys representing the estate of the deceased family argued that the water heater had a defective exhaust system as well as complicated assembly instructions that resulted in inadequate ventilation.
Design Defects and Product Recalls
When there is a design defect, frequently multiple consumers are impacted. When this occurs, a manufacturer or supplier may be subject to punitive damages for failing to initiate a recall or take other actions to repair the defect. In the Columbus case, the manufacturer of the tankless water heater had recalled some of its products because of an easily detachable vent collar that converted the units from natural gas to propane which caused the unit to produce excess carbon monoxide. However, the unit involved in the Columbus family’s death had not been recalled.
Contact an Attorney
If one of your loved ones has suffered brain injury or wrongful death as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to contact the local fire department in order to conduct an investigation. It is also useful to contact an experienced lawyer, like an Ohio medical negligence lawyer from Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co, L.P.A., in that he or she can conduct their investigation while evidence remains intact.