$30M Civil Suit Filed In CO Deaths

OCEAN CITY – The family of two Pennsylvania tourists who perished from carbon monoxide poisoning in their Boardwalk hotel room in June 2006 last week filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court seeking $30 million from four defendants including the hotel ownership group, the Bay Shore Development Corp.

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 heater 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.

Patrick Boughter, 40, and his daughter Kelly, 10, perished after carbon monoxide seeped into their hotel room. Yvonne Boughter and another daughter, Morgan, 7, were transported initially to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin before being sent to Shock Trauma in Baltimore where they were treated and eventually released.

In the days following the tragedy, investigators announced the source of the carbon monoxide leak, which affected the occupants of at least three hotel rooms in the Days Inn and was allegedly directly responsible for the deaths of Patrick and Kelly Boughter, was an exhaust pipe from the hot water heaters in the basement of the facility. The report revealed the exhaust pipe leading from the hot water heater to a vent to the outside had become dislodged, which allowed the dangerous, odorless gas to seep into the first-floor hotel rooms.

Compounding the already difficult situation was a breakdown in communication at the scene between the three different paramedic units responding to numerous calls for assistance from the Days Inn on the morning of June 27, which ultimately caused emergency responders to miss the victims in Room 121 where the Boughters were staying and where two of them ultimately perished.

Meanwhile, the Boughters laid in room 121, unaware that paramedics were only a few doors down and unaware of the gravity of their illnesses. Emergency services didn’t hear from the Boughters again until shortly after 1 p.m. when they got a call and found the deceased.

While the communication breakdown at the scene contributed to the ultimate demise of the two tourists, the dislodged exhaust pipe from the two hot water heaters in the basement was the direct cause. Officials did not know how or when the pipe became dislodged, but what is known is that the malfunctioning pipe pumped lethal levels of carbon monoxide into the first-floor rooms.

According to the suit filed last week, 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. The suit claims the death of the victims “was a direct and proximate result of the design, manufacture, distribution, supply, sale and/or defective installation of the Munchkin water heater which created an unreasonably dangerous condition that exposed each of the members of the Boughter family, including Patrick J. Boughter, to an unreasonable risk of injury, harm and death for which each of the defendants is strictly liable.”

While the suit cites the manufacturer, seller and installer of the water heater for problems with its installation, it also holds the hotel ownership group responsible because it should have known there were potential problems with the model and the way it was installed at the Days Inn.

“Bay Shore Development knew or had reason to know of the dangers associated with the use of the Munchkin water heater, particularly in light of Bay Shore Development’s knowledge of how the Munchkin water heater was installed and maintained at the Days Inn Hotel,” the complaint reads.

Unfortunately, the June 2006 incident was not the first time the Days Inn had a problem with faulty hot water heaters causing carbon monoxide exposure for its guests. Just over a year before the June 2006 tragedy, Ocean City emergency services responded to the Boardwalk hotel for a complaint about symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning and the source was identified as faulty hot water heaters in the basement of the facility.

The suit filed last week by Baltimore attorney Steve Allen, on behalf of attorney Dean Piermattei, who is representing the surviving members of the Boughter family in the case, alleges the Days Inn ownership group should be held responsible in part because of knowledge of the similar incident just over a year before the tragedy.