Second Defendant Files Answer in Carbon Monoxide Suit

OCEAN CITY- The second of four defendants named in a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit filed in February by the family of two Pennsylvania tourists who perished from carbon monoxide poisoning in their Boardwalk hotel room in June 2006 last week filed a formal answer to the complaint outlining the reasons the company should not be held liable in the accidental deaths.

Attorneys for R.E. Michel, Inc., a middle-man of sorts in the case that distributed the hot water heater blamed in the deaths, last week sought a dismissal for its part of the case, citing several reasons why the company should not be held liable. The R.E. Michel answer comes three weeks after the hot water heater’s manufacturer, Heat Transfer Products, Inc., filed its formal answer to the $30 million suit.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court last Friday, names as defendants the Bay Shore Development Corp., the owner of the Days Inn Hotel on 22nd Street in Ocean City where the tragedy occurred; Heat Transfer Products, Inc., the manufacturer of the faulty water deemed as the source of the CO leak; R.E. Michel Co. Inc., the Glen Burnie-based company that distributed the water heater; and All About Plumbing, the local company that purchased and installed the water heater at the Boardwalk hotel.

The 24-count federal suit is seeking a combined $30 million from the defendants, citing negligence, breach of warranty and strict liability in the deaths of Patrick J. Boughter and his daughter Kelly M. Boughter, both of Lebanon, Pa., who died of exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning while staying at the Days Inn Hotel in Ocean City on June 27, 2006. The suit is also seeking personal injury damages for the surviving members of the family, Yvonne and Morgan Boughter, who were also in the hotel room and suffered from exposure to CO.

According to the suit filed February 15, the Munchkin 199 water heater, manufactured by Heat Transfer Products Inc., of Massachusetts, sold by R.E. Michel and installed at the Days Inn Hotel by All About Plumbing was directly responsible for the deaths of Patrick and Kelly Boughter and the injuries or illnesses of Yvonne and Morgan Boughter.

While Heat Transfer Products, Inc. claims it shares no responsibility in the accidental carbon monoxide deaths because there was nothing wrong with the product when it was manufactured. The answer filed by R.E. Michel last week takes a similar tack, claiming the company was only the supplier and had nothing to do with the water heater after it was delivered and installed.

“The plaintiffs’ causes of action are barred in whole or in part because none of the alleged acts or omissions of this defendant were the proximate cause of the injuries allegedly sustained by the plaintiffs,” the answer reads.

Instead, R.E. Michel’s formal answer to the suit suggests any problems with the Munchkin water heater were caused by actions taken by the hotel or the installer after the product was delivered. The company’s answer suggests it had no control over the unit after the sale.

“The plaintiffs’ injuries and damages, if any, were caused in whole or in part by the intervening and superseding acts or omissions of others over whom this defendant had no control,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiffs’ causes of action are barred in whole or in part because of the misuse of the products in question.”

R.E. Michel suggests in its answer it was the installation, not the product itself, that was at fault.

“The products allegedly causing the injury to the plaintiffs were in substantially changed conditions before the plaintiffs came into contact with them,” the answer reads. “Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries were due solely to causes not connected with any products allegedly distributed by this defendant.”

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