Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Philadelpha Toxic Tort Attorneys

Although carbon monoxide (CO) exposure can occur naturally, it often occurs in homes and commercial buildings by neglectful practices, product liabilities, and lack of awareness and safety protocols. More legislation for mandatory CO detectors and a path to compensate victims are needed to stop these preventable injuries and wrongful deaths from happening. If you, a loved one, or a client experienced serious injury, permanent disability or death related to CO poisoning, contact the McEldrew Purtell Toxic Tort Team to discuss your case, co-counsel or referral. 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Often Due to Negligence

In 2022 alone, 1,244 people in the US died from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to provisional CDC data. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that emerges as a silent threat in homes, hotels, and vulnerable spaces, such as daycares and schools. For example, 32 people were hospitalized, majority of them children, after being exposed to excessively elevated levels of carbon monoxide at an Allentown, PA daycare facility. It was later determined a faulty furnace blocked the ventilation and allowed carbon monoxide to leak into the building. At the time there were no detectors in place and no state laws requiring them. The event led to the suspension of the daycare license and further litigation.

The Understated & Silent Threat of CO Poisoning

CO is a byproduct of the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. It commonly occurs in residential and commercial settings, yet it is often underestimated as a serious hazard and health risk due to lack of detection and awareness. A few common examples of vulnerable settings include, but are not limited to:

  • Hotels, Inns, Motels, Airbnb, Vrbo, etc.
  • Apartment buildings & rental properties
  • Daycares, schools & municipality buildings
  • Other commercial buildings - office buildings, factories, retail, etc.
  • Nursing home and other care facilities
  • Private residences

According to the CDC, around 400 Americans lose their lives to unintentional CO poisoning every yearthat’s not linked to fires. Over 20,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for CO exposure, highlighting the dangers of CO and how easy it is for it to go undetected until after symptoms appear.

CO poisoning symptoms include:

  • The flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Brain injury
  • Disability
  • Death

Statistical Insights and Legal Trends

The NFPA reports that fire departments respond to approximately 60,000 CO incidents each year (which do not include vehicle-related cases). The statistics related to CO exposure are grave reminders of how many people grapple with severe related health issues and wrongful death from CO poisoning. Thus, the rise in CO litigations reflects public awareness and demands accountability for negligence that leads to CO poisoning.

In 2013, a family received a $12 million settlement in Boone, North Carolina, after an 11-year-old boy died due to CO poisoning from a defective hotel pool heater. In 2017, teachers and students in Baltimore filed a lawsuit and won an unnamed lawsuit against the city's school system after being exposed to CO from a faulty boiler. Private settings are not immune to CO cases. In a notable 2018 incident, a Colorado family won a $2 million lawsuit after suffering CO poisoning from an improperly ventilated home furnace.

Legal Challenges in CO Poisoning Cases

Pursuing litigation for a CO poisoning case requires a skillset and expertise in Toxic Tort, Premises Liability and Product Liability litigation. It is necessary to establish links between what factors caused exposure, how and where it took place, and how the injuries are related. The legal landscape is further complicated by misdiagnosis and identifying a wide range of responsible parties including:

  • Property owners or landlords
  • Maintenance management
  • Product manufacturers
  • Contractors & sub-contractors
  • Government legislators
  • Employers

Recent CO Poisoning Lawsuits

$12 million - Boone, North Carolina (2013)

A family sued Best Western in Boone and won a $12 million verdict after their 11-year-old child died from CO poisoning when a faulty pool heater produced lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

$2 million - Colorado Family CO (2018)

 A Colorado family won a $2 million lawsuit after suffering CO poisoning from an improperly ventilated home furnace.

Undisclosed Amount - Baltimore School (2017)

Teachers and students won an undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit against Baltimore's school system after being exposed to CO from a faulty boiler.

Undisclosed Amount - Denver, Colorado (2016)

Residents filed a negligence lawsuit against an apartment complex after residents suffered CO poisoning from a malfunctioning furnace.

Undisclosed Amount - Atlanta, Georgia (2018)

Guests sued a hotel for negligence after over 100 people were evacuated and several hospitalized due to CO exposure from a malfunctioning boiler. The settlement amount remains confidential.

Undisclosed Amount - New York City (2020)

Residents brought a class-action lawsuit against the city’s public housing authority (HUD) for failing to install CO detectors, which ultimately lead to CO exposure.

Undisclosed Amount - Chicago, Illinois (2015)

 A landlord faced a lawsuit after multiple residents were hospitalized for CO poisoning caused by a defective heating system.

Preventative Measures

There are several measures that can prevent CO poisoning, including stricter safety protocols, legislation, and accountability from owners and manufacturers. Legislation mandating the installation of CO detectors, such as Pennsylvania's HB 494 for childcare facilities, marks progress towards public safety, but more awareness is needed at the national level.

More public education campaigns are also needed as part of the fight against carbon monoxide poisoning.  Fire departments, health agencies, and community organizations need to work together to further disseminate information about CO sources, symptoms, and the importance of CO detectors, which can significantly mitigate risks. Technological advancements have led to more sophisticated CO detectors. However, these resources and tools need accountability, testing, and research to ensure effectiveness. Otherwise, the manufacturers, owners, and third-party partners must be held accountable.

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Consult with a Toxic Tort Attorney

Our award-winning team of Toxic Tort and Product Liability attorneys has what it takes to secure maximum compensation and advocate for the public and regulatory changes needed to prevent future carbon monoxide exposures.

If you, a loved one, or a client suffered serious injury, disability or wrongful death related to carbon monoxide exposure, contact our Team to discuss the case, co-counsel or referral.