Defendants in a lawsuit filed by the estate of Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the Best Western in Boone, are employing what could be called the playground defense:
“I didn’t do it. He did.”
In documents filed in Mecklenburg Superior Court, various defendants denied liability in the deaths but said if the court finds them negligent, others were more proximately negligent.
They also asked that the venue be changed from Mecklenburg to Watauga County, where most of the defendants live, where potential witnesses live and where the Jenkinses died on April 16, 2013.
Daryl Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Jenkins, 72, were poisoned by carbon monoxide flowing into their second-floor room at the Best Western from a faulty swimming pool water heater system on the floor below.
The presence of the deadly gas was not revealed until nearly two months later after 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams died in the same room and his mother, Jeannie Williams, was seriously injured.
Charles Monnett, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Jenkins family in February, has declined to say why he chose Mecklenburg Superior Court. At least one party in a lawsuit must be located in the county where the suit is filed; in this case, the administrator of the estate, attorney Walter L. Hart IV, is from Charlotte.
Legal observers speculate the reason Mecklenburg was chosen is because an urban jury removed from the small-town politics of Boone might be more willing to award heftier damages.
The lawsuit blames Best Western International, the hotel owner and its former manager. It also cites a gas company, one of the company’s contract employees and a local heating technician.
The lawsuit incorporates details about the faulty heating system reported in a 2013 Observer investigation. Mistakes and shortcuts in installation and maintenance allowed deadly gas to escape from corroded pipes, through holes in a protective fire wall and into Room 225 above.
The Williams family is expected to file a similar lawsuit within the next few weeks. The statute of limitations is two years. Jeffrey died June 8, 2013.