Hotel Deflects Blame In CO Death Suit Response

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City hotel group named as one of four defendants in the $30 million wrongful death lawsuit filed in February by the family of two Pennsylvania tourists who perished from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in their Boardwalk hotel room in June 2006 yesterday filed a formal answer to the complaint, outlining the reasons the company should not be held liable in the accidental deaths and also filed countersuits against its co-defendants and a third party, which had not been named as a defendant previously.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in February, 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.

Two of the co-defendants in the suit, Heat Transfer Inc. and R.E. Michel Inc., have already filed answers to the complaint in an attempt to absolve themselves of any liability. Yesterday, the Bay Shore Development Corporation filed its formal answer to the suit filed by the victims’ family in an attempt to deflect liability to its co-defendants in the case.

Bay Shore also filed a cross-claim against its three co-defendants holding them liable for any and all judgments handed down in the case. Finally, Bay Shore filed a third-party complaint against Karl Dungs, Inc., a Minnesota-based company that allegedly designed and supplied a gas control valve blamed in part for the emission of deadly carbon monoxide levels into the hotel rooms where the tragedy occurred.

In short, the Days Inn owners, in one fell swoop, attempted yesterday to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the events laid out in the initial complaint and instead placed the blame on the various designers, manufacturers, suppliers and installers of the faulty Munchkin hot water heater blamed in the deaths.

“If the plaintiffs were injured and damaged as alleged in the complaint, then those injuries, losses and damages were the result of defects in the manufacture and/or design of the Munchkin water heater which defects were unknown to this defendant and for which All About Plumbing, Heat Transfer Products, R.E. Michel and/or others who are currently not parties to this action are responsible,” the answer reads.

In the formal answer to the victims’ suit, Bay Shore implies the tragedy was caused by the negligence of other parties, the co-defendants, over which it had no control.

“The defendant, Bay Shore, asserts that the plaintiffs’ injuries and damages, if any, were caused by the intervening and supervening acts and omissions of persons and/or entities other than this defendant…over whom defendant, Bay Shore, had no control or right of control and for whom Bay Shore is therefore not legally responsible,” the answer reads. “Wherefore, having fully answered the plaintiffs’ complaint, Bay Shore Development Corporation moves that it be dismissed with costs assessed against the plaintiffs.”

In its cross-claim suit against the other defendants named in the case, Bay Shore denies any liability.

“Bay Shore has answered the complaint filed by the Boughter family denying all liability and continues to deny all liability,” the cross complaint reads. “Nevertheless, in the event that Bay Shore is found to be liable to the Boughter family for any of the claims set forth in the complaint, said liability and damages will be because of and is a proximate result of the negligence, breach of contract, breach of warranty, strict liability, breach of duty and/or other wrongful conduct of the cross defendants.”

Finally, in yet a third formal action filed in U.S. District Court yesterday, Bay Shore filed a third-party complaint against Karl Dungs, Inc. alleging the injuries and deaths sustained by the Boughter family were the direct and proximate result of the design, manufacture, distribution, supply, sale and/or defective installation of the gas control valve which created an unreasonably dangerous condition that exposed each of the members of the Boughter family and various customers of Bay Shore to an unreasonable risk of injury, harm and death.

“The unreasonably dangerous condition created by the component parts of the Munchkin hot water heater, including but not limited to the gas control valve, rendered it unsafe, unfit and unreasonably dangerous and were known to and/or should have been anticipated by Dungs,” the complaint reads.