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$200,000 and $50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessments for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver REgistry, assessing damages for carbon monoxide poisoning that aggravated pre-existing brain abnormalities.

In today’s case (Edwards v. Parkinson’s Heating Ltd.) the Plaintiffs were a married couple who were exposed to carbon monoxide emissions from their living room fireplace.  The Court found that this exposure was caused by a Defendant’s negligent servicing of the fireplace.

Both Plaintiff’s had pre-existing brain abnormalities but the Court found the poisoning aggravated these.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $200,000 and $50,000 for the Plaintiffs Mr. Justice Hinkson provided the following reasons:

[466]     A summary of my key findings is as follows:

  1. Kenorah owed the plaintiffs a duty of care with respect to the 2008 reinstallation of the fireplace. Parkinson’s owed the plaintiffs duties of care with respect to both the 2008 reinstallation and the subsequent servicing of the fireplace;
  2. The standard of care for installing and servicing the fireplace required the following:

(a)   Reasonably inspect the fireplace to ensure it was:

(i)   operating in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications (per s. 57 of the Gas Safety Regulations); and

(ii)  was venting in a safe and proper manner (per s. 57 of the Gas Safety Regulations);

(b)   Reasonably test for CO emissions using a suitable CO detector;

(c)   Repair or remediate any defects or problems that would interfere with the safe operation and venting of the fireplace.

  1. Kenorah did not breach the standard of care with respect to the 2008 reinstallation. Parkinson’s breached the standard of care with respect to subsequent servicing of the fireplace. The breaches occurred on February 10, 2009, and November 13, 2009;
  2. As a result of Parkinson’s breach that occurred on November 13, 2009, the plaintiffs were exposed to CO in their residence, from that date until January 4, 2010, at levels above 50 ppm but less that 1000 ppm;
  3. Prior to the CO exposure, Dr. Pinel had brain abnormalities, which included hippocampal atrophy and white matter changes. He also had behavioural and cognitive problems, such as forgetfulness, fatigue, and mild depression;
  4. Prior to the CO exposure, Ms. Edwards had brain abnormalities, which included hippocampal atrophy and white matter changes. She also had anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, and cognitive problems involving verbal and visual learning.
  5. As a result of the CO exposure, both Dr. Pinel’s and Ms. Edwards’s hippocampal atrophies were accelerated. The CO exposure caused Dr. Pinel’s depression to worsen, and Ms. Edwards’s depression, anxiety, and mood disorders to worsen.

[467]     The damages awarded to the plaintiffs are as follows:

a. Non-pecuniary damages (Ms. Edwards) $  50,000.00
b. Non-pecuniary damages (Dr. Pinel) $ 200,000.00
c. Special damages $5,792.00
d. Cost of care $ 53,000.00
e. HCCRA award $ 2,624,57
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