This week in Pennsylvania, a jury awarded the family of deceased 77 year old Sandra Trolio $868,000, which included $750,000 for pain and suffering. The family brought the wrongful death claim against the Westmoreland county housing authority which owned the building in which Sandra died from monoxide poisoning in February of 2013.
Since the county housing authority was ruled by County Judge Chris Scherer to be a state agency, there was a damage cap of $250,000. The Trolio family’s attorney said he would not appeal this decision.
On February 4 of 2013, Sandra Trolio was found dead by her grandson in the efficiency apartment at Eastgate Manor which she had been renting for less than two weeks. First responders arrived and determined that the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.
Sandra Trolio had left the oven open to dry an undergarment. The Trolios’ lawyer, Alan Silko, acknowledged that it was “an odd thing to do, but our expert will say it should not have been a problem if there was proper ventilation in that apartment.” The lawsuit successfully claimed that the apartment was not properly ventilated. This allowed natural gas from the oven to fill the apartment with carbon monoxide.
Expert witness for the Trolio family, Mark A. Sokalski, works as an engineer at Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. He testified that Sandra “would have died even if she used the oven properly.” There were no working vents in the apartment, and the windows, which had been installed in 2009, were sealed shut. The door did not allow air to flow beneath it. Building codes require a certain level of airflow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
During the trial, Michael Washowich admitted that Sandra’s apartment had not been tested for ventilation issues prior to her move in. He also told the court that, following Sandra’s death, all gas ovens in the apartment building had been replaced with electric stoves.
Robert Trolio, Sandra’s son, made a statement after the verdict, saying, “I’m happy for the outcome, but this was never about the money. My mother’s name is cleared. I wanted to know first how it happened and why.”
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas found in burning fumes that kill you if present in high enough concentrations in the home or other enclosed space. It comes from many sources including car exhaust, furnaces, fireplaces, lanterns, or any other fuel-burning mechanism. According to the Center for Disease Control, “more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”
Every person has a right to clean air and safe living conditions. If you or someone you love has been injured from environmental hazards, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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