Friday, March 27–Hotel Group Wants Installer In Carbon Monoxide Lawsuit

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City lodging group, named as one of four defendants in the $30 million wrongful death lawsuit filed last February by the family of two Pennsylvania tourists who perished from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the Boardwalk motel room in June 2006, filed a cross claim this week against the owner of the company that installed the faulty water heater blamed for the tragedy.

The original suit filed in U.S. District Court in February 2008 names as defendants the Bay Shore Development Corporation, owner of the Days Inn on 22nd Street where the incident 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.

Since the suit was filed over a year ago, each of the defendants has filed responses to the complaint, deflecting blame to their co-defendants. Cross claims have been filed in all directions as the defendants attempt to insulate themselves from liability. In addition, new parties have been added to the list of defendants through the cross claim process including the Joyce Agency, a Virginia company whose employees allegedly talked All About Plumbing through the installation process over the phone.

This week, the Bay Shore Development Corporation filed a motion to amend its cross claim against All About Plumbing to include the company’s owner, Eric Martinenza, who allegedly had a direct hand in the selection and installation of the faulty Munchkin boiler. Bay Shore’s latest action comes after Martinenza gave his deposition in the case on March 19.

“Martinenza was the All About Plumbing employee who was directly and personally involved in the selection, installation, venting, re-venting and servicing of the Munchkin boiler,” the amended claim reads. “As a result of his deposition, Bay Shore is now in a position to assert claims directly against him.”

According to the motion to amend the cross claim, the results of the deposition suggest Martinenza should be added as an individual plaintiff in the suit.

“There is no reason that would preclude Bay Shore’s proposed amendment of its cross-claim,” the document reads. “Martinenza is an employee of All About Plumbing. In fact, Martinenza is the principal of All About Plumbing. It is his business.”

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.

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.

After the $30 million suit was filed last February, Bay Shore Development has denied liability and asserted they relied on the expertise of the manufacturer, seller and installer of the faulty Munchkin boiler. This week, the company filed a motion, which, if granted, would effectively add the individual whose company installed the boiler and who allegedly actively, participated in the installation.

“Bay Shore has answered the complaint filed by the Boughter family denying all liability and continues to deny liability,” the document reads. “Nevertheless, in the event that the defendant and cross plaintiff, 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 primary and active negligence, breach of contract, breach of warranty, strict liability, breach of duty and/or otherwise wrongful conduct of the cross defendants.”

The amended cross claim goes on to say any and all judgments in the case should be the responsibility of the co-defendants in the case.

“In the event a judgment is entered in favor of the Boughter family against Bay Shore, then Bay Shore Development Corporation demands judgment against All About Plumbing, Eric Martinenza, Heat Transfer Products and R.E. Michel Company for the full amount,” the document reads.