Maryland workers’ compensation law bars employees from filing lawsuits against their employers for injuries received pursuant to their employment. This prohibition precluded 20 employees who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while working at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Baltimore in early 2008 from seeking recovery against Ruth’s Chris.
It did not, however, preclude them from filing a lawsuit in state court against the owners and managers of the hotel where the restaurant is located. A Maryland jury recently awarded the employees nearly $34 million in their suit against TPOB Pier Five LLC and Meyer Jabara Hotels LLC, finding the owners liable for negligence and public nuisance. The jury also found Meyer Jabara Hotels liable for battery.
Exposure to carbon monoxide gas – which is colorless and odorless – results quickly in flu-like symptoms that include headaches and nausea. Exposure of even short durations results in death for many people. A number of Ruth’s Chris employees became suddenly ill while working in the restaurant on February 2, 2008. The restaurant was evacuated and a gas leak subsequently discovered in the hotel’s basement boiler room. Carbon monoxide readings taken in the restaurant indicated the presence of the gas at 400 parts per million, a figure eight times higher than the allowable ceiling set by the federal government.
At trial, the hotel did not challenge its responsibility for the leak, but it did contest employees’ allegations that they had suffered permanent injuries. The jury sided predominantly with the workers, awarding them money damages ranging from $75,000 to $4.7 million. Most of the employees received between $1 and $2 million.
Related Resource: aboutlawsuits.com “Maryland Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Lawsuit Nets $34M Verdict” July 29, 2010