Wrongful Death: The Lofgren Suit
It is always tragic when a life ends suddenly, even more so if it occurs due to the actions or negligence of someone else. Quite often, it is up to the court system to decide if and where culpability lies. This is where the wrongful death suit comes into play. It is often the only recourse left for survivors to pursue.
Right now, in Denver, there is a lawsuit filed on a particularly tragic case. All four members of the Lofgren family died in 2008 while on a vacation and while staying at a rental property. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. Michael Roberts, a blogger for Denver Westword Blogs, writes:
As noted in the Lofgren family civil suit [PDF], parents Parker and Caroline Lofgren, along with their adorable children, Owen, ten, and Sophie, eight, traveled to Aspen to spend Thanksgiving weekend at a facility called The Lodge. That evening, the lawsuit states, snow began falling on their rental home. As snow accumulated on the roof, a sensor triggered a gas-fired boiler called the ‘Munchkin’ to melt it.
Sounds cozy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the Lofgrens would not survive to see the morning:
But something went terribly wrong. At five p.m. on November 28, 2008, family friends discovered the Lofgrens’ bodies — and they were in fearful condition, according to the lawsuit:
‘The decedents Parker and Caroline Lofgren were found in their nightclothes on the bed. Caroline had hemorrhaged from her mouth or nose. Owen was found on the floor by his father beside a nightstand. Sophie was found on the floor by her mother with her face bloodied. Blood was also found on the bedding of one of the bunk beds in the children’s guest suite.’
It was later confirmed that carbon monoxide poisoning killed the Lofgrens, with evidence pointing to the Munchkin boiler. The suit alleges that the causes of the poisoning included, but were not limited to, a disconnected exhaust vent, a disconnected fresh air intake vent, a defectively designed boiler, an improperly installed HVAC system and the absence of a carbon monoxide detector. The document argues that several of these factors ‘were open and obvious violations of Pitkin County Code.’
With that list of causes, it is no surprise that the suit in question has a number of targets, as noted by AboutLawsuits.com:
The lawsuit has a long list of defendants, including a plumbing company and two building inspectors who have been indicted by a grand jury for their connection to the deadly carbon monoxide leak. On Monday, prosecutors announced that the findings of the grand jury would be sealed, but that defendants would get a copy of the transcripts.
The article goes on to note that carbon monoxide leaks are the leading cause of fatal poisonings in the U.S. Roughly 40,000 people annually suffer injury or death from these leaks. I would like to join in encouraging readers to make sure that they have carbon monoxide leak detectors in their homes.
The Lofgren fatalities have incited action in their wake. Following their deaths, the surviving extended Lofgren family has joined with several others to launch the Lofgren Carbon Monoxide Initiative. Here is a bit about it in their own words:
The Lofgren, Rittenour, and Feuerbach families have been involved in the passing of carbon monoxide legislation in Colorado, Oregon, Maine and Washington. This legislation has already saved lives in these states. In addition, they have worked with local fire departments to get carbon monoxide detectors in to as many homes as possible. The families are dedicated to making sure that this tragedy does not happen again, and that the public is educated about the dangers of carbon monoxide and can protect themselves and their loved ones from carbon monoxide.
And they have certainly had an impact in Colorado. In The Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act was signed into law in February of 2009 by Governor Bill Ritter. This act greatly expanded legal regulations requiring carbon monoxide detectors in residential dwellings.