Carbon Monoxide Leak in Long Island Restaurant Kills One, Sickens 26
A father of two died in a Long Island restaurant basement from carbon monoxide poisoning, leaving some people wondering if his tragic loss will result in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Steven Nelson – the manager of Legal Sea Foods in Walt Whitman Mall – was in the basement when he succumbed to CO poisoning and passed out. He was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
According to witnesses, Nelsen went down into the basement at about 6:00 p.m. to use the bathroom. When he failed to return, Megan Smith – the assistant manager – went down to check on him. As Megan was knocking on the bathroom door to inquire if he was okay, she also fainted. Another employee told authorities, “People kept disappearing down there. That’s how they knew something was wrong.”
When police and fire officials arrived on the scene, they also became dizzy, determined it was carbon monoxide poisoning, and evacuated the restaurant. That evening twenty-six people were treated for CO poisoning. Three were taken to area hospitals for treatment, including Megan Smith. The remaining people were treated on site, which included EMS responders, police, and other workers.
A woman eating at a restaurant nearby described the unfolding events as follows: “It was a wild scene. People were freaked out, wondering if the food was poisoned or if there was a bomb.”
Officials determined the cause of the carbon monoxide gas was a leaking flue pipe on the hot water heater. The restaurant owner was issued a summons for faulty equipment, which can result in fines of up to $2,000.
Why carbon monoxide is dangerous
Carbon monoxide gas is odorless and invisible. It binds with the hemoglobin in red blood cells 240 times more readily than oxygen, which causes oxygen in the bloodstream to be replaced by CO. Without oxygen, the body’s cells begin to die and major organs become damaged, including the heart and brain. Even at low levels, carbon monoxide is very dangerous. Low level exposure can go on unnoticed for long periods of time; often mistaken for the flu or other diseases.
Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Headache – dizziness – nausea – impaired judgment
- Feeling faint – drowsiness – passing out
- Shortness of breath – chest pain
- Confusion – memory lapses
Liability in a carbon monoxide poisoning lawsuit
In New York, carbon monoxide detectors are not required in commercial buildings. However, this recent tragedy has spurred lawmakers into talking about requiring CO alarms in spaces where the public gathers.
A city council member, Vincent Ignizio explains, “It’s my take that good is not the enemy of perfect. When you have a gold-standard carbon monoxide detection system on one end, and then nothing on the lower end — which potentially can be fatal — there’s a way in which we can find a medium there, and I think that’s in the carbon monoxide alarms.”
If such a law were passed, it would make it much easier to hold the building owner or contracted representative liable in commercial building carbon monoxide poisoning cases. However, current law in New York does not require carbon monoxide warning systems in commercial buildings.
There may be liability for the manufacturer of the hot water heater, for the installer, or for the owner for failing to keep equipment in safe operating condition. In New York, boilers used to heat water are required to be inspected once or twice per year depending on the size of the unit. It is unclear if the hot water heater in this case falls under that requirement.
Advice about filing a NY carbon monoxide poisoning lawsuit
If you or a loved one has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning, you may be entitled to monetary damages. We encourage you to discuss your legal rights and options with New York carbon monoxide lawyers at The Sanders Firm during a complimentary evaluation of your case.
Our specialized team of attorneys will answer your questions and assist you in determining your best course of action. Call our offices any time, night or day at 1.800 FAIR PLAY (800.324.7752).
- New York Daily News – Carbon monoxide kills one, sickens 19 at Long Island, N.Y., restaurant, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/carbon-monoxide-kills-sickens-19-long-island-n-y-restaurant-article-1.1699339#ixzz2wXT6sfQR
- CNN – Man dies, dozens hospitalized after carbon monoxide leak at New York mall, http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/23/justice/new-york-carbon-monoxide-poisoning/