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The Silent Killer in Your Home

On Behalf of | May 4, 2017 | Premises Liability |

A University of California Berkeley graduate watched the Super Bowl on television in his Oakland apartment with his roommate and his girlfriend. During the day and evening they experienced headaches and nausea. The roommate and his girlfriend left. When they returned the next day, they found their friend in bed with his eyes half open, and unresponsive. He was diagnosed with anoxic encephalopathy due to carbon monoxide poisoning. He remains in a persistent vegetative state.

A married couple were recently found dead along with their two cats in a Berkeley, California fourplex. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a gas produced by incomplete combustion. It is colorless, tasteless and odorless to human senses. The density of carbon monoxide is less than that of air and it distributes rapidly within spaces such as apartments. At lower levels, symptoms include headache, malaise, fatigue, slowed mentation, confusion and other neurologic sequelae. When levels become sufficient, unconsciousness and death will occur. 

Patients behave similarly to those with traumatic brain injury. As patients with brain injury age, they are at greater risk for early cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. High risk groups for neurologic symptoms include infants, the elderly and pregnant women. Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) is a common result of carbon monoxide poisoning and can cause delayed neurological problems and cognitive functions and may cause a Parkinson-like brain syndrome. Other common sequelae include depression and anxiety.

Common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in homes include furnaces, gas stoves and ovens, gas and wood burning fireplaces, water heaters using natural gas, clothes dryers, portable heating systems, power generators and power tools. Motor vehicles left running in an enclosed garage or area are extremely deadly.

The parties potentially liable for damages caused by carbon monoxide include property owners, HVAC companies responsible for maintenance and property management companies. Early investigation is essential because some defendants may destroy evidence because they believe it will help their case.

California has implemented a law requiring the installation of carbon monoxide detectors outside of each bedroom in most apartment buildings. The landlord is responsible for installing, testing and repairing the device. In the above mentioned cases there were no carbon monoxide detectors located outside of the bedrooms.

The Van Blois law firm represented the young University of California graduate and achieved a very large settlement to provide lifetime care for the carbon monoxide victim. The law firm’s investigation established that the two doors affixed to the front of the apartment forced air furnace had been reversed in location. This resulted in products of combustion, particularly carbon monoxide, being discharged directly into the apartment. The property owner, the property management company, the furnace manufacturer, PG&E and the service repair company all contributed to the settlement.

If you or a loved one has suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, the Van Blois law firm with law offices located in Oakland and Stockton, California, is experienced in such cases and can help you.

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