A Casper woman who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace in her apartment will receive only a fraction of the $28 million a jury awarded her in 2013.
Amber Lompe will not challenge a ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded a $22.5 million punitive damage award against the company that managed her apartment was “grossly excessive” and violated the 14th Amendment, attorneys from both sides confirmed Thursday. The appeals court in April reduced that award to $1.95 million.
Lompe was living in the Sunridge Apartments when she suffered the carbon monoxide exposure, which she says left her with permanent injuries. She sued that apartment complex and property manager Apartment Management Consultants in 2012.
“We are gratified by Ms. Lompe’s decision to accept the ruling of the 10th Circuit and allow the litigation to come to a close,” Greg Wiseman, chief executive officer for Apartment Management Consultants, said in a written statement.
The company did not provide additional details about when and how the firm learned the case had ended.
Lompe chose not to pursue an additional appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, her lawyers said in a separate statement.
“Many considerations factor into that decision, not the least of which is that now, more than five years after being poisoned in her Sunridge apartment in 2011, Ms. Lompe is ready to put the legal battles behind her and move forward with her life,” the statement read. “But she is not hanging her head.”
Lompe was a 20-year-old Casper College student when she was poisoned by the gas via a malfunctioning furnace in her apartment. A doctor who testified at her trial told jurors Lompe would have died if she’d been exposed to the gas for another 60 to 90 minutes.
The exposure resulted in a permanent brain injury that affects Lompe’s memory, concentration, attention and ability to multi-task, she told the Star-Tribune in a 2013 interview. She described experiencing difficulty with basic tasks, such as making a grocery list.
On Thursday, she referred questions about the case to her lawyers at the Spence Law Firm in Jackson.
Lompe’s lawyers argued Sunridge’s owner and manager ignored warnings that furnaces in the building were dangerous and needed to be repaired or replaced. A jury agreed and gave her a massive award — believed to be the largest civil judgment in Wyoming’s history. A year later, a federal judge upheld the jury’s award, dismissing arguments that it amounted to a runaway verdict.
The apartment’s owner and manager appealed the case to the 10th Circuit, which agreed that the part of the award related to punitive damages was excessive. The appeals court did not dispute that Lompe was harmed by the carbon monoxide exposure. But it concluded the Apartment Management Consultants’ conduct resulted from indifference rather than malice and lowered the punitive award to $1.95 million.
“There is no evidence that AMC intended to cause harm to Ms. Lompe or any other person, or that its conduct was ‘the result of intention malice trickery or deceit,’” the court concluded.
Despite the reduced award, her attorneys hope it will bring attention to tenant safety and the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“If this means that someone is helped, or a landlord somewhere takes steps to prevent a poisoning, then this case is a win for all of the people of Wyoming,” her lawyers said in the statement.