A Wyoming federal court jury awarded $28.2 million to a Casper, Wyoming woman who was poisoned by carbon monoxide from an outdated and unmaintained furnace in her apartment, said the Spence Law Firm.
The legal team alleged that the apartment owner and manager ignored warnings that the complex’s 30-year-old fleet of 96 furnaces was dangerous and needed to be maintained or replaced. Wyoming law requires landlord to provide tenants safe housing, including safe and working heat.
The tenant was poisoned by her furnace causing a permanent brain injury that affects her memory, concentration, processing speed, attention and multi-tasking. She has also suffered from chronic headaches and sleep problems related to the brain injury. Unable to work and attend college as before the injury, she will require numerous medications and other treatment for the rest of her life, doctor’s testified.
A U.S. District Court Judge entered the judgment of $2.7 million in compensatory damages and $25.5 million in punitive damages against the owners and the management company, which manages apartment complexes in 13 states.
The tenant’s attorney said “The jury’s verdict sends a message that [in Wyoming] we expect more from landlords. We won’t allow businesses to put profits over people, where people’s lives are at stake. I hope this verdict will make all of our communities safer in the future.”
The three week trial included evidence that the tenants were not warned after a maintenance employee suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and was sent to a hospital emergency room. The trial also included allegations that incident photos and witness statements were altered, fabricated or destroyed as part of a cover-up during the litigation. The furnace from the plaintiff’s unit also disappeared, her lawyers said.
Carbon monoxide causes 560,000 emergency room visits a year and more than 1,000 accidental deaths each year in the United States. Trial testimony showed that approximately half of the other tenants in the apartment building did not have functional carbon monoxide detectors when the plaintiff was poisoned.
The tenant’s attorney said, “These companies knowingly risked their tenants’ lives, refusing to provide safe, working furnaces in the apartments. The jury worked hard for three weeks and they discovered the truth. This verdict will help this tenant to get the medical treatment and support she will need for the rest of her life.”
The case is Case 2:12-cv-00088-ABJ in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming in Cheyenne. For more information, contact Erin Powers at [email protected]. Reprinted with permission of Powers MediaWorks, LLC.