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In December of 2003, a 23 year old woman died from carbon monoxide asphyxiation at a home she rented when a gas heater illegally installed in the garage malfunctioned, causing her to be overcome by carbon monoxide fumes. Her death was the culmination of multiple acts of gross and reckless misconduct by various persons — including the former and current homeowners and the gas company that performed work at the premises shortly before her death.
A wrongful death action was commenced in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois by attorney Jamie R. Lebovitz and co-counsel, Kevin Durkin of Chicago. Over a period of nearly four years, thousands of pages of deposition testimony and documents demonstrated that a conscious disregard for fundamental rules and regulation intended to protect human life resulted in the death of our client.
In the process of renovating the three unit town house and turning it into a single family home, a previous owner who once worked in the city’s building department omitted from permit applications and plans any reference to a swimming pool and pool heater. The pool was surreptitiously installed on the rooftop of the attached garage and the heater was placed in the garage — in direct violation of the building code, as well as in violation of the local gas company’s safety code and regulations.
In October of 2003, two employees from the local gas company installed a new, larger gas meter. The company’s internal rules required that, when installing a new meter, the installer must identify all gas appliances in the residence as well as any unsafe conditions involving those appliances. If an unsafe condition were found (as should have been done with respect to the pool heater in this garage), the gas company’s procedures mandated that the unsafe condition be disconnected, permanently. Further, the gas company’s procedures mandated that gas appliance ventilation systems be inspected for dangerous conditions. Had that been done, the employees would have discovered heavy sooting around the pool heater vents—a sign that the system was failing and that excessive amounts of carbon monoxide were being generated. Instead, the gas company’s crew inexplicably ignored these safety mandates—instead installing the new meter and relighting all of the gas appliances, including the unsafe pool heater in the garage.
In December of 2003, shortcomings in the pool heater equipment allowed an excessive build-up of lethal carbon monoxide fumes in the residential garage. In walking to her car, the occupant was overcome by carbon monoxide gases at levels so extreme that the Medical Examiner found her blood to be saturated with this poison to a level of 89%.