Judge Irked By Delays In CO Lawsuit

OCEAN CITY – The U.S. District Court judge presiding over the $30 million wrongful death lawsuit filed earlier this year by the family of two Pennsylvania tourists who perished from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Boardwalk motel room in June 2006 admonished attorneys on both sides yesterday in letter expressing her disappointment in the slow progress of the case, which forced her to cancel a mediation session scheduled for Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey sent a memorandum to the attorneys for the plaintiffs and the vast number of lawyers representing the multiple defendants in the case essentially taking them to task for the slow progress in the case.

“I am very disappointed with the lack of progress in this case,” the letter reads.

Gauvey referenced a letter dated Aug. 12 urging the attorneys to be ready for mediation in an effort to begin resolving the case. She also referenced a September conference call urging the same.

The suit 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 also suffered from exposure to CO.

Each of the defendants named have filed motions for dismissal and almost every defendant has filed cross-claims against the various co-defendants involved in the case. Now, nearly a year after the suit was filed, Gauvey is clearly fed up with the delays.

“Various defense letters suggest that the mediation on December 15 would be futile and additional discovery is necessary,” the letter reads. “I am canceling the mediation on December 15 and substituting a telephone conference call. All counsel should be prepared to advise me of the targeted discovery they need to have a meaningful second mediation. Despite the informal nature of this letter, it will constitute an order of the court and will be docketed accordingly.”