CO Poisoning, Personal Injury & Lawsuits

Complaints and Lawsuits related to CO poisoning and toxicity cases can be traced back to the 1920’s where CO exposure was rampant in coal mining due to use powder or dynamite explosions in blowing down coal. Such lawsuits usually fall under the umbrella of negligence, personal injury, product defect and liability. Individuals poisoned usually file suits on those thought to be responsible or parties liable such as manufacturers of furnaces, maintenance and equipment/appliance installers, builders and contractors, property management and landlords. When gathering engineering evidence for a carbon monoxide toxicity case, make sure the below key items are investigated per my protocol and as presented in my peer review published article:

  • K.Galatsis,“Gathering Engineering Evidence for Carbon Monoxide Toxicity Cases”, Medicine, Science and the Law,  British Academy for Forensic Sciences, 2015 (PDF)

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 3.41.20 PM













Login Admin

Causation & Failure Mode Forensics

Was the CO pollution source identified? 

Was the fault mechanism / causation identified or verified?

More often than not, CO causation can be visually identified due to obvious tell tale signs such as cracked flue vents or physical soot formation and deposits. Investigation may be required to identify misdirected exhaust or natural air diffusion that transports contaminants into the occupant space.

Compliance and Verification?

Problematic carbon monoxide sources include portable generators, boilers, furnaces and other combustible burning appliances. Compliance with  CO product warning/emissions labeling and  state EPA exhaust certification should be verified. Compliance and verification of the following should also be inspected:

  • Design and installation considerations.
  • Sensor technology and systems.
  • Compliance with Consumer Product Safety Commission product labeling requirements. 16 CFR Part 1407 “Portable Generators Labeling Requirements”
  • Compliance with Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (Senate Bill – SB 183) verified
  • Compliance with NFPA 720 – Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide verified

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 2.07.31 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-23 at 2.03.31 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-23 at 2.04.01 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 2.03.39 PM

Carbon Monoxide Measurement Forsensics

Engineering forensic analysis of a carbon monoxide case comprises of well designed CO measurements and/or modeling. 

This becomes pivotal in non-fatal and/or chronic CO exposure cases where victims suffer neurological damage. Quantifying CO exposure such as “how much CO?”, “what concentration?” and “length of exposure?” are crucial elements in “closing the loop” with physiological evidence.

Was the source CO concentration quantified?

Were CO air free measurement undertaken (?) in order to determine if suspect appliance(s) comply with ANSI carbon monoxide emission limits?

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 8.44.26 PM


Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 2.34.09 PM










What were the resultant ambient CO concentration levels? (and for what period of time?)

Obtaining ambient field measurements of CO concentrations is more complex than analyzing air free exhaust gas due to the non restrictive air dynamics one finds in a environment such as a home. Walking with a CO meter in hand is unacceptable. The act of walking with the monitor creates microplumes that distorts CO data readings that would be a point of contention.

Carbon Monoxide Modeling Forensics

Hard carbon monoxide measurements are the gold standard for evidence in any carbon monoxide case. However, very often not possible to obtain due to situational changes. Event reconstruction forensics of the ambient CO concentration using EPA accredited software and modeling methods may be called for and is often performed in order to obtain estimate ambient measurements and CO exposure magnitudes:

  1. Modeling event reconstruction of CO concentrations – base set of reconstruction analysis with key variables and assumptions.
  2. Dynamic and equilibrium modeling – acute or chronic exposure?
  3. Mass-balance and proximity effect modeling – idealistic diffusion modeling together with more realistic personal cloud and plume physical modeling.
  4. CO concentration vs. time profile reconstruction – typical work product output of modeling analysis.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 1.24.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-23 at 1.22.33 PM

CO Detector Compliance and Placement

Beyond CO measurements and modeling efforts, questions regarding the operability of the CO detectors are often raised. Compliance should always be verified.

Why didn’t the CO detector alarm?

In such cases, CO laboratory measurements can verify correct operation and compliance with UL2034 “Single and Multiple Station Carbon Monoxide Alarms”. If it is deemed that CO detector alarm and sensor verification of compliance is required, then CO detectors should be tested in a controlled laboratory environment.

COdetector1Clipboard03Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 1.50.31 PM


Interlock Technology

Technology advancements in carbon monoxide sensor technology could be used to totally prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by triggering interlock and shut-off circuitry in most situations. Most often than not, this could be achieved using economically and practically implemented solutions.

 A $29 Interlock System to prevent Carbon Monoxide Deaths

K.Galatsis, W.Wlodarski, Y.X.Li, and K.Kalantar-zadeh, “Ventilation control for improved cabin air quality and vehicle safety,” The 2001 Spring IEEE Semiannual Vehicular Technology Conference, May 2001, Rhodes, Greece. (PDF)