Idling Trucks and Carbon Monoxide “Poisoning”

Oil Spill

Expert Witnesses Rebuffed

The plaintiff was purportedly overcome by carbon monoxide fumes in her workplace from trucks allegedly left idling while making deliveries at the rear of the building to another tenant. She complained of a headache, nausea and fatigue and was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Room. Four days later, she was admitted for many days of treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. She underwent speech, occupational, and physical therapy for many months and was treated by a neuropsychologist for several years after. The plaintiff brought suit against the tenant of the building to whom the truck deliveries were made, as well as against the building owners and the various truck companies making deliveries on the day in question. The plaintiff’s daughter brought a claim for loss of consortium.

The plaintiff alleged at trial that she complained numerous times about the smell of exhaust fumes to the building owner and to the tenant to whom deliveries were made. The plaintiff also offered the testimony of five expert witnesses, including the physician who treated her in the hyperbaric chamber, two neuropsychologists, an industrial hygienist, and an economist. The plaintiff further alleged the inability to return to her pre-incident level of functioning in her home life and in her job, and lost earning capacity in the amount of approximately $687,000.

We disputed that the plaintiff had complained to the defendant about the smell of exhaust fumes. We also challenged the cause of her physical difficulties, pointing out that the plaintiff’s carboxyhemoglobin level was within the normal range in the Emergency Room and that there was no evidence of the level of carbon monoxide in the air at the time of the incident alleged. Through the testimony of our expert neuropsychologist we also asserted that the plaintiff’s pattern of test results on neuropsychological testing did not reveal an organic brain injury and, in fact, showed that the plaintiff performed within the average range on virtually every test administered. The jury returned with a defense verdict. The plaintiffs did not appeal.


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