A civil case over carbon monoxide deaths at the Best Western in Boone should be tried in Watauga County where the deaths occurred, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.
An attorney for the two children of Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, who died in 2013, had hoped the case would be heard in Charlotte. But Judge Carla Archie agreed with attorneys for Best Western International and other defendants that the case should be heard where the couple died and where most witnesses reside.
The ruling could impact a separate lawsuit filed on behalf of 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams of Rock Hill, who died in the same room six weeks later. Defense attorneys have requested that Jeffrey’s case also be transferred to Watauga County but their motions have not been heard.
Both lawsuits ask for damages from Best Western International, the hotel’s owners and its former manager, Damon Mallatere, as well as from companies and individuals who worked on the swimming pool heating system where the deadly gas originated. Mallatere also faces three counts of manslaughter.
An attorney for Best Western argued that trying the case in Charlotte could jeopardize the public safety of Boone residents. He said 32 town employees – including 44 percent of the police force – would have to travel to Charlotte.
“It would not promote the ends of justice by putting a North Carolina town at risk,” attorney Steven Weaver said.
Charles Monnett, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Jenkins family, argued that it would be difficult to find jurors in Watauga County who don’t know potential witnesses. He noted that Charlotte would be more convenient for his clients, Doug Jenkins and Kris Jenkins Hauschildt, who live in Washington state.
Also this: “They are not interested in spending several weeks in a hotel in Boone.”