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Florida Governor Considering Signing New Law  Requiring Installation of Carbon Monoxide
 Detectors in all Florida Hotel Rooms by July 1, 2008; Meanwhile, 27 Lawsuits Filed
 Against the DoubleTree Grand Key Resort
By Kyle Teal, Florida Keys Keynoter, MarathonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 9, 2007 - --The state Legislature adjourned Friday with a bill heading to Gov. Charlie Crist's desk that would require installation of carbon monoxide detectors in hotel rooms across Florida by July 1, 2008. But the first of 27 lawsuits against the DoubleTree Grand Key Resort is likely to see its first appearance in court a few months before.

The legislative initiative was a result of lobbying on behalf of Richard Lueders, father of Thomas Lueders, an aspiring writer who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while vacationing at the Key West resort in December. If signed as expected by Crist, the mandate would require detectors in all public lodgings as well as be installed no more than 10 feet away from bedrooms in homes or apartments built after July 1, 2008, with adjoining garages, gas heaters, fireplaces or other appliances.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eduardo Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, is an effort to prevent deaths such as Lueders'. Some 500 Americans die each year from the poisonous gas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Its study also indicates that 15,000 Americans are poisoned from unintentional, non-fire-related carbon monoxide.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea and dizziness, and according to the center's Web site, can be prevented with simple measures including:

-- Having oil, gas or coal-burning appliances annually checked by a technician.
-- Installing and periodically checking battery-operated CO detectors.
-- Refraining from heating your house with a gas oven, or cooking on a grill near your windows.
-- Refraining from burning anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.

Gonzalez sponsored the bill in honor of the late Janelle Bertot and Anthony Perez of Miami-Dade, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their car in Weston in 2004.

Richard and Susan Lueders are now involved in a civil suit set for April 2008 against the DoubleTree, where a lethal mistake in the fourth-floor boiler room caused the colorless, odorless gas to leak into Thomas and Richard Lueders' room next door. Besides the Lueders suit, there are 26 others against the DoubleTree, says attorney Ira Leesfield, who represents all 26, including the Smith family of Iowa, who stayed in the same Room 416 Thomas and Richard Lueders did.

"These people had a defective hotel," Leesfield said. The Lueders are represented by West Palm Beach attorney Gregory Barnhart of Searcy, Denney, Scarola and Shipley. "I think this is an excellent case," Barnhart said. "They [the resort] had notice and they ignored it."

Barnhart added that the hotel's actions cross the boundaries of "negligence" and could easily constitute "recklessness." According to Barnhart, Richard and Thomas Lueders experienced a hypoxic injury, one that binds red carbon monoxide to blood cells, depriving them of necessary oxygen. Thomas Lueders was treated for his illness.

The DoubleTree's shoddy repairs and adjustments made to a boiler room next to Room 416 led to the death of 26-year-old Richard, according to investigations completed by the state Fire Marshal's Office and the Key West Police Department. After the Monroe County State Attorney's Office reviewed those reports and conducted an investigation of its own, the office said it could not prove anything criminal occurred.


Copyright (c) 2007, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

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