Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The verdict stands (access required)

The Daily Record has posted a few stories on the recent carbon monoxide trial featuring lawyers from the legendary Murphy Firm. A Baltimore City jury compensated 20 restaurant employee plaintiffs in that case with $34.3 million dollars. Plaintiffs argued that a hotel hot water heater leaked dangerous carbon monoxide into the Ruth’s Chris restaurant. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can cause a range of physical complications, including headaches, nausea, vomiting, weakness, disorientation and death.  Over the long-term, it can harm memory and brain function. The amount of leaked carbon monoxide was over seven times the amount that requires evacuation of a building. Post-trial motions for the defense were unavailing — they filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on two parts of the claim, a motion for new trial, and a motion to reduce the verdict per the statutory cap ($695,000 per plaintiff for non-economic damages). The reports indicate that the judge denied all of these motions — the most interesting here is the judge’s refusal to apply to cap, likely because the plaintiffs argued, and the jury found, intentional conduct. The cap doesn’t apply to intentional torts because it was designed to reduce the cost of liability insurance, which does not typically provide coverage for intentional torts. Plaintiffs argued that the defendants purposely removed a safety device that would have prevented leakage of the carbon monoxide. Clearly, this is the type of high-profile case about which people will have strong opinions. Being a plaintiffs’ lawyer, even though this was not a case that I was involved in, I’m glad the injured victims received a good outcome following their day in court. I’m sure there are defense lawyers out there who think the outcome was ridiculous. And, there are probably non-lawyers who have every opinion in between.