Dorman v. State Indus., Inc.Annotate this Case
In 2007, four women moved into a Blacksburg apartment. Days later, on August 19, a service technician measured high levels of carbon monoxide at the apartment’s front door. Receiving no answer from the occupants, he entered and found them unconscious in their bedrooms. Days later, the town building official (Cook), the code official, and Mann, a mechanical engineer in heating and air conditioning design, were present for testing of the atmospheric-vented gas fired hot water heater manufactured by State. Cook later testified they were able to recreate the “back draft and carbon monoxide” conditions only when “the water heater was running, all the doors to the bedrooms were closed . . . the air conditioning was running.” Mann testified that, because of sediment, water was continuously draining out of the heater causing a continuous flow of fresh water, resulting in the gas burner continuously firing to heat the water. Testing revealed there was insufficient fresh air in the apartment for proper venting, so the heater generated carbon monoxide. In a case alleging breach of warranty and negligence, seeking more than 24 million dollars in damages, the trial court found State not liable. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed, upholding the use of a jury instruction concerning superseding cause and the admission of evidence on superseding causation.