Hotels Must Do a Better Job Protecting Their Guests from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In a fresh, tragic reminder of the deadly power of carbon monoxide, two Best Western guests lost their lives this summer while visiting Asheville, NC for a rugby tournament. While police note that conclusive toxicology information may not be available for up to eight months, an initial investigation of the property points to improperly vented air and water heaters as a possible culprit.

The Stoddard Firm has seen all too many cases of company owners failing to maintain safe premises for their guests, and we’re proud to help the victims of preventable accidents like CO poisoning, as well as their families, obtain justice.

“Most carbon monoxide poisoning deaths can be prevented by installing and maintaining CO detectors wherever people sleep or fuel is burned,” says the firm’s own Matt Stoddard. “These detectors start at $20 each, and there’s just no reason not to use them.”

North Carolina Best Westerns Have Had This Problem Before

It took a pair of tragedies at another North Carolina Best Western to make many hotels even consider investing CO detectors. Back in 2013, within six weeks of each other and in the same room, a couple and a mother with her 11-year-old son all suffered CO poisoning. Only the mother survived, with neurological damage.

Best Western waited a year to start requiring CO detectors after these deaths, but once it did, other major hotel chains finally began following suit. Even the nontraditional hospitality giant, Airbnb, has been providing the devices for free to all its hosts since 2014. The same pair of incidents also prompted North Carolina to pass legislation requiring CO detectors in hotels within the state, though inspection rules for the devices are still vague. It’s unclear why no alarm sounded in Asheville, and whether device maintenance may have been an issue.

CO Poisoning Happens in Georgia Hotels as Well

Other states have been even slower to adopt this life-saving requirement. Only 38 states, including Georgia, have any laws at all regarding the use of CO detectors. These laws mainly focus on CO detectors in homes, and only 14 states require them in hotels and motels. Georgia, sadly, is not one of them.

Where rules enforcing the use of CO detectors do exist, whether in the form of local legislation or internal company policies, they’re usually limited to rooms intended for sleeping. This explains why a Hilton location in Gwinnett County had to be evacuated in 2015 due to CO toxicity, without any of its room alarms being triggered. Hotel staff realized something was wrong when they themselves began to feel ill, after being exposed to a leak in the boiler room.

Hotel Owners Have a Responsibility to Keep Guests and Employees Safe

Regardless of local ordinances, property owners always have a general responsibility to protect their tenants, employees, and guests from foreseeable, preventable dangers. “For a company to be liable, the law doesn’t have to spell out every individual danger they shouldn’t be exposing people to,” explains Matt. “Hotels everywhere know the steps to prevent CO poisoning. They have a duty to take them.”

If you’ve been harmed or lost someone due to CO poisoning in a hotel, call the Stoddard Firm to learn how we can help.