Ginger Aldrich, a young woman who nearly died in 2005 from carbon monoxide poisoning at her apartment in Burlington, and the estate of her boyfriend who died, have settled their claims with a group of entities blamed for the tragedy. But the Aldrich case, which had been scheduled to go to trial on May 6th, and the lawsuit brought on behalf of the estate of Jeff Rodliff, were settled. The amounts of both settlements were confidential.

The 2005 carbon monoxide incident occurred in an apartment complex located next to the University of Vermont campus. According to police reports and other documents, the boiler in the building misfired, dislodging a section of plastic venting pipe which sent carbon monoxide fumes into the four apartments. The problem went unnoticed until another tenant, who found herself struggling to maintain consciousness, managed to call the building’s maintenance man. That person was able to tell him she could “smell something weird” in the building.

The maintenance man realized the tenant was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and told her to get out of the building. He then drove to the building to warn other apartment residents. When he arrived, Rodliff’s body was found and 911 was called. Three women, including Ms. Aldrich, were unconscious and in critical condition by the time police and rescue workers arrived. Ms. Aldrich, the most severely affected survivor, remained in a coma for two weeks.

Eight lawsuits were filed by tenants sickened by the carbon monoxide exposure, which included the wrongful death case. Defendants in the lawsuits included 16 potentially responsible entities, including the companies that built and managed the complex and those involved in the installation and maintenance of the heating system, including the failed venting pipe. New England Air Systems, which was responsible for maintaining the heating system, wound up as the primary Defendant. It was learned that New England hadn’t replaced the vent pipe involved, even though the pipe was the subject of a federal recall because of life-threatening problems with its durability.

Ms. Aldrich, who will struggle with physical and other disabilities for the rest of her life as a result of the poisoning, requested as part of the settlement that New England Air pay $1,000 a year for ten years to the Burlington and St. Johnsbury fire departments for carbon monoxide awareness programs.

Interestingly, the ten-year deadline for free, company-arranged replacement of the Plexvent and Ultravent brand plastic vent pipe expired on May 1st, shortly after the settlement between the parties was reached. With the deadline passed, owners of the faulty vent pipe will still be reimbursed for replacing the pipe, but will now be responsible for up-front payment of parts, labor, and permits, and for arranging to have the work done.

Two other cases filed by students sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning arising out of this incident were settled earlier and three more are still pending. Steve Adler, the lawyer who represented Ms. Aldrich, and Gary McQuesten, the lawyer who represented the Rodliff family, each did a very good job for their clients.

Source: Burlington FreePress.com

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