8 Lawsuits Underway Involving Vermont Heating System Malfunction

Eight lawsuits have been filed against companies involved with the heating system that malfunctioned at the Redstone Apartment complex near the University of Vermont in 2005, killing one person and sickening others.

The lawsuits targeted as many as 10 companies, including the maker of a pipe that malfunctioned, the manufacturer of the apartment complex’s heating boiler, the landlord and firms involved in the construction of the building, its heating system and the natural gas used to fuel it.

Last week a court hearing on the cases was attended by 19 lawyers. Lawyers for two of the student tenants sickened said the two had reached settlements with the defendant companies in their cases.

One of the pending lawsuits, filed in 2006 by the estate of Jeff Rodliff, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning after the Jan. 30, 2005 incident, alleges Stephen Bartlett, the president of a Williston heating and ventilation company, knew enough about a federal recall of plastic vent pipe to have it replaced in his own home in 1999. But he didn’t require the same fix for the student apartment complex serviced by his firm, the lawsuit says.

“In spite of the fact that the president of New England Air Systems had Plexvent removed from his home soon after the implementation of the recall … New England Air Systems took no steps to remove the piping, close down the system or otherwise assure that the Plexvent piping was removed,” said one of the lawsuits, filed by Rodliff’s mother Karen Blake.

Bartlett’s attorney Richard Cassidy said the information was taken out of context from a deposition of Bartlett more than a year ago.

“All it shows is that Steve didn’t remember that the Plexvent pipe was replaced in his home back in 1998 or 1999,” Cassidy said. “Given how many years ago that occurred, that’s not surprising. ”

Reports say a boiler in Building 3 of the Redstone complex misfired, causing a section of the faulty pipe to be dislodged from an elbow joint, sending carbon monoxide fumes into the four apartments above.

The Plexvent vent pipe was the subject of a federal Consumer Product Safety Commission recall in 1998 after the commission learned of problems with the pipe’s durability and determined it was “a deadly threat to consumers.”


Information from: The Burlington Free Press,