Last spring, you might remember seeing news stories everywhere about three tourists mysteriously dying at a Sandals resort in the Bahamas. After initial reports stated authorities were unable to determine the cause of death, at the end of June they discovered the tourists were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In June, NBC News noted an investigation into the incident, which seriously injured another, is currently underway. A Sandals spokesperson told NBC that “carbon monoxide detectors have since been placed in all guest rooms at Sandals Emerald Bay and will be installed in all guest rooms across the company’s portfolio.”
Of course, this does not bring back the lives already lost. This story recently came up again in a New York Times article, focusing more on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning closer to home.
“I don’t know what these people were waiting for — someone to die?”
A case currently being litigated by Biby Law Firm was the center of a New York Times piece about the dangers and risks of carbon monoxide poisoning in the hotel industry. Pawel Markowski was staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Catoosa, Oklahoma in Room 205 when his life changed forever.
Per the Times:
Early on the morning of March 16, Jason Morgan, the plant manager at the factory, learned that his boss, Mr. Markowski, had failed to show up to a 7:30 a.m. meeting. Calling and texting did not elicit a response.
Upon arriving at the hotel, Mr. Morgan spotted the Kia Soul Mr. Markowski always rented outside. After convincing the woman at the front desk to let him into the room, he found his boss curled up in a fetal position on the floor.
“He couldn’t talk. He didn’t know where he was at,” he said.
Mr. Markowski was suffering from a nearly fatal case of carbon monoxide poisoning. Worse? He wasn’t the first person to experience this in Room 205 of the Hampton Inn.
After initiating their investigation into Mr. Markowski’s case, the attorneys at Biby Law Firm discovered that the Catoosa Fire Department had responded to Room 205 twice in the previous two weeks for similar complaints. Markowski was in disbelief—he told the Times, “I don’t know what these people were waiting for — someone to die?”
And Mr. Markowski did almost lose his life:
Fire fighters responding to Mr. Morgan’s call realized that this was their third call to Room 205 in recent weeks and pulled out a carbon monoxide detector. Most in-room alarms are calibrated to go off at levels at which people could be injured if they stay in the room — somewhere around 70 parts per million for more than an hour or 400 p.p.m. for more than four minutes…Mr. Markowski’s room was at 764 p.p.m., according to Fire Department reports. The water heater room registered at 1,500 p.p.m.
The Fire Department found exhaust flues detached from hot water tanks in the water heater room which can result in carbon monoxide following air currents and leaking into other areas. In this case, a bird’s nest was blocking the vents where the carbon monoxide should have been escaping, resulting in it flowing up to Room 205.
The report also noted an Oklahoma safety violation – a lack of a carbon monoxide alarm near the hot water tanks. This lack of warning, both near the tanks and in the rooms, was a recipe for disaster that nearly caused Mr. Markowski to lose his life.
Why don’t all hotels have carbon monoxide detectors?
The case begged the logical question as to why all hotels are not required to have CO detectors in or near their guests’ rooms. And if not required, why wouldn’t hotels, particularly multi-billion dollar companies like Hilton, voluntarily install them. As seems typical with most big companies, it all comes down to a matter of money. Thomas G. Daly, a consultant and former Hilton employee who has helped the lodging association lobby against stricter carbon monoxide rules, told the Times that “requiring detectors in every room is ‘outrageously expensive’ because it involves not only installing a detector every six years or so but also testing and upkeep.”
Proponents of stricter carbon monoxide regulations contend it should be on lawmakers and hotel chains to ensure safety of their guests. Carbon monoxide detectors are around $30 each – vastly less than the cost of a human life. Fire and smoke detectors are required; why not CO detectors?
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
It’s important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning in the event it happens to you or a loved one. Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” for a reason – it’s odorless and invisible. The CDC describes the symptoms of CO poisoning as follows:
- Dull headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
The risk of death from carbon monoxide poisoning is much higher for individuals who are intoxicated or sleeping. Further, the Times notes that hotel staff and physicians often miss the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, “partly because the symptoms — headache, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, confusion, blurred vision, tingling of the lips — could be caused by so many things.”
The Tulsa personal injury attorneys at Biby Law Firm are proud to represent Mr. Markowski and clients just like him when they suffer harm when companies choose to put profits over people.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to the negligence of another, our lawyers want to help. To schedule a case review with our widely respected and experienced law firm, call 918-574-8458 or fill out our contact form today. We serve clients throughout the Tulsa area.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.