A Baltimore jury has awarded nearly $34 million to 20 restaurant workers who suffered carbon-monoxide poisoning in early 2008. In addition, another $500,000 was awarded to the spouses of three of the workers. The owner and operator of the downtown waterfront hotel where the Plaintiffs worked conceded responsibility at trial for the leak at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. But their lawyer said the Plaintiffs should only receive “fair and reasonable compensation” for “temporary” symptoms.

The jury found hotel owner TPOB Pier Five LLC and operator Meyer Jabara Hotels LLC each liable for negligence and creating an intentional public nuisance. It also found the operator liable for battery, which is an intentional tort. The trial judge had thrown out claims for punitive damages at the end of the Plaintiffs’ case before the jury got the case.

The damages to each Plaintiff ranged from about $11,000 to $1 million for future medical expenses; from zero to $1.147 million for future lost earnings; and from $285,000 to $3.75 million for pain and suffering. Three spouses of the Plaintiffs were also awarded damages for injuries to their marital relationship, $385,000 for one couple and $75,000 for the other two. The damages will not be capped because they were based on intentional torts.

It was contended that the Defendants’ hot-water boilers spewed exhaust into the Ruth’s Chris property and that it could have been prevented if the hotel walls had been properly sealed or a required safety interlock system had been in place. The other Defendants sued Ruth’s Chris, but that case was dismissed. According to the Plaintiffs, firefighters detected carbon monoxide levels of nearly 700 parts per million – several times the 100 parts per million that compels building evacuation. William H. Murphy and Mary V. McNamara-Koch, both Baltimore lawyers, represented the Plaintiffs. They did a very good job.

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