Lawsuit filed in Cache County propane camp heater deaths

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The families of two Colorado residents killed while camping in Utah have filed a lawsuit against the company that made the products blamed for the deaths. Steven Dowdy, 28, of Clifton, Colo., and 10-year-old Darian Thomlinson, of Grand Junction, Colo., died in Cache County after warming up a tent with a Coleman PowerMate heater and a Coleman propane lantern, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed March 21 in federal court in Salt Lake City. The pair did not realize the products released “deadly amounts of carbon monoxide” because of insufficient warning labels, the lawsuit states. Coleman spokeswoman Delaina Lee told The Associated Press the company does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dowdy’s wife, Amber, and Mark and Teresa Thomlinson, the parents of Darian. Dowdy and Thomlinson died June 21, 2009, while camping with family and friends during a paintball tournament. Investigators at the time said the bodies were found in a tent with the heater running, which was the likely cause of death, according to the lawsuit. Dozens of deaths have been blamed on the Coleman PowerMate heaters, which were discontinued in 2006, as well as a previous model called the Focus. Lawsuits have been filed around the country with mixed results. Two cases were filed in 2006 in Washington. One was settled out of court, but Coleman won the other one in a jury trial. The ruling was upheld by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010. In 1999, a Florida jury awarded $10 million to the family of two men who died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Although the heaters are no longer made, more than a million are still being used, according to the lawsuit. Coleman “has failed to take any steps to correct the design and warn of the hazards and deficiencies in its propane radiant heaters, issue post-sale warnings or to conduct a product recall to remove the dangerous products from the market place,” the Utah lawsuit states.

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