Berkeley landlords face wrongful death lawsuit in connection with carbon monoxide intoxication of 2 tenants

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Two Berkeley landlords are facing a wrongful death lawsuit that alleges that the deaths of two former tenants could have been prevented had their unit included a carbon monoxide detector on the second floor.

Roger and Valerie Morash were found dead Jan. 23 in their Deakin Street apartment after suffering from acute carbon monoxide intoxication. The lawsuit, filed March 22 by Susan Hanna, the mother of Roger Morash, alleges that the property’s landlords, Tony Wong and Cindy Kwong of the Wong/Kwong Family Trust, “breached their obligations” and neglected to maintain the property “in accordance with applicable laws,” according to the complaint.

Michael Bracamontes, one of Hanna’s attorneys, said a carbon monoxide detector was installed on the bottom floor of the Morashes’ two-story apartment, but not on the second floor, where Roger and Valerie Morash were found dead along with their two cats.

Wong and Kwong were unable to be reached for comment as of press time.

According to a report developed by Michael Wintheiser of engineering consulting firm EMP Consultants, Inc., a number of tests conducted at the Deakin Street property found no sources of carbon monoxide generation in the gas-fired equipment of the Morashes’ unit. Additionally, the tests found no “unsafe conditions” contributing to the emergence of carbon monoxide gases in the unit, the report stated. In the report, Wintheiser recommended testing the couple’s laser cutter for the generation of carbon monoxide or other toxic gases.

Wintheiser also recommended the installation of carbon monoxide detectors on the second floors of all units at the Deakin Street property.

“We hope to kind of bring to light and remind everybody — not just tenants and landlords, but also homeowners — that carbon monoxide detectors are vital to a well-maintained building,” Bracamontes said of the lawsuit. “These deaths were preventable.”

Harini Shyamsundar is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.

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  • dpaul

    This being California, I hope the Landlords are well insured.