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Payout for family poisoned by CO

British Gas must pay out £36,000 to a family who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning after being overcome by fumes at their home in Hale near Manchester in November 1999.

The long running legal dispute has finally been concluded after all the family’s compensation claims were agreed.

The case occurred after a faulty boiler allowed carbon monoxide to leak back into the home of Sharon and Jeremy Hart.

As a result the Harts’ four young children and one of their friends started suffering from vomiting and they collapsed one by one.

Although Sharon and Jeremy were also affected they phoned for an ambulance and all those suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning were taken to hospital for treatment.

The family took action against British Gas as it provided annual maintenance and service of their gas central heating system and an inspection in April 1999 had declared it to be satisfactory.

The Hart family alleged that British Gas had failed to note the system’s inadequate ventilation.
British Gas admitted this but said that this had not been the cause of the incident and they therefore denied liability. Its engineers blamed freak weather conditions and thermal inversion.

In March 2004 a compromise was reached before a formal trial and the parents’ cases settled, but conclusion of the children’s cases was delayed to ensure any long term health concerns could be addressed.

Pauline Chandler, who specialises in personal injury and industrial disease cases at law firm Pannone and took on the case on behalf of the family, said: “Unfortunately, carbon monoxide can have long terms effects, some of which can be quite subtle, so even after liability had been finally agreed and the parents claims settled, we responsibly waited a few more years before settling the children’s claims so we could properly assess any damage they may have suffered.

“The medical consultants had to be reasonably satisfied that the children would not develop any long term ill effects in future and thankfully this seems to be the case.

“Nine years after the incident happened, the children’s claims have also been finally concluded and in total, the family has now recovered 60% of £60,000.”

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include headache, nausea, tiredness, dizziness, muscle pain, flu symptoms, vomiting and diarrhoea. It can also cause unconsciousness, but people can be exposed to low levels of it without realising and diagnosis in these circumstances can be very difficult.

Ms Chandler said: “The Hart family had a very lucky escape. Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘silent killer’; it is invisible and has no taste or smell.  All gas appliances should be serviced and maintained regularly by a CORGI registered engineer and carbon monoxide support groups recommend the installation of an electronic carbon monoxide detector. I am delighted to have helped them receive the compensation they deserve after their ordeal.'