Judges Order Insurance Company to Pay Compensation for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Nevada Motel

Judges have ordered Century Surety Co. of Michigan to reimburse the Casino West Motel in Yerington in respect of compensation for carbon monoxide poisoning in the Nevada motel that Casino West has already paid to the families of victims in the 2006 accident.

In June 2006, Phillip Doll (26), Juan Pablo Chavez (27), Juan´s wife Veronica Espinoza Chavez (20) and their friend Donna Vega-Robles (30) died at the Casino West Motel when lethal fumes from a malfunctioning swimming pool heater entered their room and suffocated them.

It was subsequently discovered that the ventilation system of the room in which the swimming pool heater was situated had been mistakenly blocked off, and the families of the deceased claimed compensation for carbon monoxide poisoning in the Nevada Motel against Casino West.

Between November 2007 and April 2008, Casino West settled the claims made by the four families for undisclosed amounts, and then attempted to recover the amount paid from their insurers – Century Surety Co. of Michigan.

Century Surety denied that it was liable to reimburse Casino West for the compensation settlements it had agreed due to exclusions in its insurance policy which gave it the right to reserve coverage for the claims. Century Surety directed the motel to clauses which excluded the insurance company from liability when injuries were caused due to internal environmental pollution and poor air quality.

Casino West contested the exclusions as “ambiguous” but, in March 2010, the Nevada District Court found in Century Surety´s favor. In October 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit gave Casino West permission to appeal against the decision.

Now the Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that where ambiguous language exists, it should be interpreted “to effectuate the insured´s reasonable expectations”. The court ordered Century Surety to reimburse Casino West for the compensation for carbon monoxide poisoning in the Nevada motel it had paid to the victims´ families.