One man died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in the Allen Benedict Court apartments in Columbus, South Carolina, while another man required hospitalization after being exposed to the toxic gas. As a result, the Columbia Housing Authority is facing two separate lawsuits, further illustrating the depth of the public housing crisis in the state. The lawsuits are being brought by the mother of the man who died and the man who lived in the adjacent apartment and was badly injured as a result. Both lawsuits were filed at the Richland County Courthouse on February 1, 2019.
Thirty-year-old Derrick Roper was found dead in his apartment on January 17, 2019, and neighbor Robert Ballard was rushed to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. Derrick Roper’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Columbia Housing Authority, and Robert Ballard has filed a personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuits both claim that the Columbia Housing Authority should have known about the dangerous conditions in which the apartment building was kept.
Unsafe Levels of Toxins Found in Units
For instance, toxins such as cyanide, carbon monoxide, and natural gas were all found to have been leaking into the apartments, and the plaintiffs claim that the Housing Authority either knew about this and failed to correct the adverse conditions or that they should have been testing for toxic substances and weren’t doing so. On January 18, the Columbia Fire Department inspected the apartment building and found unsafe levels of carbon monoxide as well as numerous gas leaks in various parts of the building. It was determined that Robert Roper and another man residing in the building, Calvin Witherspoon Jr., 61, both died of acute carbon monoxide exposure.
The lawsuit claims that the Columbia Housing Authority failed to install and maintain proper carbon monoxide detection devises and that they failed to perform necessary inspections.
Former Mayor Speaks Out
Former mayor of Columbia, Bob Coble has issued a public statement to the effect that the Columbia Housing Authority will be reviewing the lawsuit with the South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund and moving forward from there. Coble went on to say that the Housing Authority deeply regrets the loss of life involved in this tragedy.
If you’re experiencing a similar situation and aren’t sure how to proceed, contact wrongful death attorney, Ryan Montgomery Law, for advice.