Injuries Caused By Defective Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The Des Moines register recently reported about a Des Moines family whose carbon monoxide detector saved them from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide detectors are certainly a valuable safety item for your home because exposure to high concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to serious illness and even death. Carbon monoxide detectors are intended to detect the presence of high levels of carbon monoxide, warn you of the high levels, and give you time to leave the area or ventilate it.

But what if the carbon monoxide detector doesn't work or malfunctions? A carbon monoxide detector does not good if it fails to warn you of the presence of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. What are your rights to sue under a products liability theory for physical injuries, death, or property damage caused by a defective carbon monoxide detector?  

The first question is what causes high, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide? Most homes have a minor trace of carbon monoxide in the air, primarily because of gas appliances. Gas appliances usually don’t cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in a home unless the appliance has a product defect, has been improperly maintained, or has been inadequately inspected or maintained. In addition to gas appliances, dangerous carbon monoxide levels can also stem from defective or malfunctioning space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, and chimneys, especially in enclosed spaces. 

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, trouble breathing, and nausea. Unfortunately, those symptoms can be caused by other ailments and aren't always immediately recognized as caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. It's important to seek immediate medical attention if there's any concern that such symptoms are a possible sign of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Manufacturers of carbon monoxide detectors can be liable if the detector fails to work and provide an alarm. This is most commonly due to an issue with the detector's internal wiring. Sometimes a defective carbon monoxide detector fails to detect elevated carbon monoxide levels that it should detect. Other times the necessary detection is made but the alarm doesn't sound for some reason. Under either scenario the detector has failed to function as intended and the product manufacturer can be liable if it's at fault for that failure.

Harley Erbe