The Danger of Carbon Monoxide Poisonings at Hotels
According to a USA Today investigation from last year, hotel carbon monoxide poisonings have resulted in 8 deaths and injuries to nearly 200 people since 2010. Source: www.usatoday.com, “Hotel guests face carbon monoxide risk”
Last year, three people in North Carolina were killed after a corroded pool heater pipe caused the dangerous gas to leak into a nearby hotel room. In two separate incidents in April and June of 2013, an elderly couple and a young boy died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Read more: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Hotel Kills Three, Hotel Operator Charged
Appliances responsible for carbon monoxide poisonings are usually boilers, heaters, pool heaters, furnaces, etc. However, hotels across the country have failed to respond to the risk. The fix is a relatively easy one, placing carbon monoxide detectors in every room. The problem is the costs involved to install, maintain and replace the detectors. For the entire industry, installation costs alone could exceed $200 million.
Liability in a Hotel Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Case
The recent, tragic carbon monoxide poisoning tragedy in North Carolina will probably turn out to be a text book example of hotel liability and liability of a contractor hired by a hotel. The hotel owner has been arrested in connection with the deaths and has implicated a heating company which apparently performed work on the pool heater a year prior to the deaths.
Liability of the Hotel
A hotel can be held liable for an accident when the hotel either 1. had direct knowledge of a dangerous condition or 2. should have known about it at some time before the accident occurred. Basically, in order for any business to be liable for an accident, there must be evidence that the business had fair warning of the problem and sufficient time to correct it.
In a situation like this, there is a strong argument that the hotel owner either knew or should have known about the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning before the young boy died in June 2013; that’s because the elderly couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning in April, roughly two months prior. Therefore, the argument is that the hotel should have taken remedial measures after the death of the couple in April. Had it done so, the young boy would probably have survived.
However, based on the facts thus far, the hotel might not be liable for the deaths of the elderly couple because there does not appear to be evidence that the hotel owner knew or should have known about the danger before their deaths. If there is evidence to suggest otherwise, then the hotel operator could be held liable. For instance, a maintenance worker at the hotel may have noticed the corroded exhaust pipe in 2012 or early 2013, yet failed to take any action. Alternatively, the hotel may have failed to conduct reasonable inspections of the pool heater, in which case, the argument may be made that the hotel should have known about or discovered the problem before April and then corrected it. Therefore, all three deaths could have been prevented.
Liability of Other Parties
The heating contractor would probably be liable for all three deaths, if it was negligent in converting the pool heating system or otherwise failing to detect corrosion of the exhaust pipe. The argument could be made that the contractor was negligent, and as a result, the elderly couple and the young boy died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
In addition, proper investigation may reveal liability of other parties, such as a pool maintenance contractor. For example, a pool maintenance company may have performed a service check-up for the 2013 pool season, prior to these deaths, and failed to notice the corroded pipe. Had a proper maintenance check up/inspection been performed, the deaths would have been prevented.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident at a hotel, please call our hotel accident lawyers at 800.220.7600. Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation, and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.
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