The issue of whether a mechanic or repairman can be held liable for failing to warn a customer about a dangerous condition was recently addressed by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in the reported decision of Landaverde v. Navarro; Gomez v. Parrish Servs. __ Md.App. ___ (2018).

In 2002, five members of a family in Oxen Hill, Maryland died from carbon monoxide poisoning.  The cause of that poisoning was that some unknown person or persons had negligently connected the home’s bathroom ventilation fan to the flue that was supposed to carry carbon monoxide gas from the boiler and water heater up through the ceiling and through the roof.

Heirs of the decedents sued the HVAC contractors who had made unrelated repairs to the hot water heater and boiler.  The heirs alleged that HVAC mechanics saw a flue pipe that was defective, but did not either fix it or warn the homeowner that the defective flue pipe created a danger in that residents of the home might be poisoned by carbon monoxide gas. Even though the HVAC mechanics fixed the immediate problem that caused the hot water heater to malfunction, the mechanic had a duty to the homeowner and to persons who lived in the house to either fix the flue pipe or warn of the danger it presented, because (1) it was foreseeable that
occupants of the home would be at risk of death or serious bodily harm should the defect in the flue pipe not be repaired; and (2) the mechanics worked in a profession that required them to know of the risks and dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning when a defective flue pipe existed.

The Appellate court concluded that appellants’ “evidence was sufficient to allow a jury to find that [the HVAC mechanics] had a duty to exercise reasonable care in performing their respective work on the gas-powered boiler and hot water heater that included inspecting the visible portions of the flue for signs of rust or corrosion and, if the conditions impose a danger, take reasonable steps to protect the occupants of the home from carbon monoxide escaping from the flue into the home”.