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Carbon Monoxide Leak Leads to Death of Three in Newburgh Apartment Building

Three residents of 55 Lander Street in Newburgh, New York are now dead as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Jewell Cummings, a resident of the basement apartment in the building, was the first to pass away. Her longtime companion Robert Richardson, who occupied the basement apartment with her, was the one to call for help when Cummings fell ill, as she was the only one to be incapacitated that day. Emergency personnel believed that she had experienced a heart attack. The following day, however, numerous other residents of both 53 and 55 Lander, which share a wall, became ill.

The fumes were able to penetrate that adjoining wall, causing residents to experience flu-like symptoms. Richardson himself succumbed to Carbon Monoxide poisoning, and the remaining ten residents of the building were also evacuated and sent to a local hospital. Several days later, the occupant of the attic apartment in 55 Landers, James Patterson, died of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Residents have been permitted to return to 53 Lander, but 55 Lander has been condemned.

When firefighters and emergency personnel entered the property after the additional residents became ill, their Carbon Monoxide detectors immediately went off. Officials believe that the poisoning was due to the chimney being clogged with debris, which allowed exhaust from the home’s furnace to accumulate indoors.

A local ordinance passed less than two years ago by the City of Newburgh requires owners of rental properties to apply for city-issued licenses in order to rent out those properties. Those licenses last one year. One of the conditions of obtaining such a license is to submit to a safety inspection, designed to discover hazardous conditions such as missing Carbon Monoxide detectors. However, Newburgh’s City Manager, Michael Ciaravino, stated that the law has not been enforced thus far by local officials. Fifty-Three Lander had not been subject to a safety inspection since 2009 at the time of the Carbon Monoxide poisonings. Carbon Monoxide detectors were donated to the residents returning to 53 Lander from a local Lowe’s store. Such detectors cost between $15-40.

Landlords bear a duty to their tenants to maintain the rental property in such a way that the health and safety of the residents is preserved. Owners of rental property have a duty to remedy such unsafe conditions such as a lack of Carbon Monoxide detectors and a clogged chimney. While an unenforced city ordinance may not have imposed an additional burden on the landlord, it should put a landlord on notice of the necessity of such inspections.

Cleaning out your chimneys may not seem like it could be a life-saving measure. However, proper ventilation of your home, especially during winter months, is critically important. Carbon Monoxide is colorless and odorless and can accumulate quickly if a room is improperly ventilated. Carbon Monoxide detectors are an inexpensive way to ensure that your home is safe from the silent, deadly gas.

If you or a loved one has been injured or worse due to negligent maintenance of property by a landlord or owner, don’t wait to get the compensation you need to be made whole. The attorneys at Basch & Keegan are skilled and experienced at representing victims of negligence and can offer a free consultation if you’ve been hurt in the Kingston, Ulster County, or Hudson Valley area. Call (845) 251-4545 today to speak to a seasoned personal injury attorney.