Surrey company must pay $300K after couple’s fireplace gas leak

Two Vancouver seniors experienced brain damage after carbon monoxide leak

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered a company that caused a carbon-monoxide leak in an elderly Vancouver couple’s home to pay them more than $300,000 in damages.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson found that Margaret Elizabeth Edwards and John Philip James Pinel suffered depression, memory loss and serious cognitive damages after a carbon monoxide leak went undetected for months.

Edwards and Pinel were living in their Vancouver home in 2007 when they hired Kenorah Construction and Design to renovate their home.

Subsequently, the installation of three gas fireplaces was subcontracted out to Surrey-based Parkinson’s Heating Ltd.

Edwards and Pinel then re-hired Parkinson’s directly to service their gas fireplaces in February and November 2009.

Then on Jan. 10, 2010, the couple woke up in their bedroom with “severe” headaches, and over the next few days continued to feel sick.

On advice from a friend, Edwards called Terasen Gas to ask if there could be a carbon-monoxide leak in their home and was advised to turn off the gas.

A Terasen Gas worker visited the home on the same day to test for possible carbon-monoxide emissions.

After turning the gas back on, he tested various appliances and fireplaces and found that the living room fireplace was emitting carbon monoxide from its vents.

Michael Slater, the Parkinson’s employee who had serviced their fireplaces in 2009, came to inspect the carbon-monoxide emissions and found that the screw designed to secure the draft hood to the spill tube, which vents carbon monoxide into the chimney and out of the house, was missing.

This made a gap that let the carbon monoxide flow directly into the house.

Edwards and Pinel allege that Slater was negligent in servicing the living room fireplace in 2009 because he did not check for carbon-monoxide emissions.

Slater admitted that he did not check during his first visit but that he did during his second visit.

Hinkson found Slater’s testimony about his second visit “unreliable and that he has reconstructed what he wishes to believe he did on that date.”

Hinkson said that the fireplace was likely leaking carbon monoxide between Nov. 13, 2009, when Slater made his second service visit, up until Jan. 4, 2010, when he came to determine why the fireplace was leaking carbon monoxide.

Upon hearing a doctor’s testimony, Hinkson found that Pinel turned from an “intellectual, ambitious, energetic and vibrant man with a passion for learning and writing” into one who now spends spends “much of his days watching TV sometimes with a blank screen, that he reads much less, and writes almost nothing” and has been depressed and had suicidal thoughts.

Hinkson found that although Edwards suffered fewer concequences as a result of her carbon monoxide exposure, some of her recent short temper and impatience can be attributed to that exposure.

The judge found that as a result of the brain damage caused by the carbon monoxide, the couple suffered a “loss of friendship and intimacy.”

Pinel was awarded $200,000 in non-pecuniary damages and Edwards was awarded $50,000. Jointly, the two were awarded $53,000 towards the cost of Pinel’s care and a further $8,416 in other damages.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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