A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in the San Juan County Superior Court on Monday, July 24, regarding the April 3 carbon monoxide poisoning of Troy J. Sullivan.
Attorney Chris Davis, of the Seattle-based Davis Law Group filed the complaint against Edward and Tami Lee Ashcraft, Jim’s Heating and Refrigeration and Inter-Island Propane. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
“He was a young man, 31 years old, and he was financially supporting his father. He had a decent job and his sister and parents are of course devastated,” said Davis. “In the wrongful death of a young man like this, we believe the damages are substantial.”
On April 3, Sullivan, 31, and Kelli Ashcraft, 21, were discovered dead in a bedroom of a home outside of Friday Harbor owned by Edward and Tami Lee Ashcraft. The lawsuit claims the deaths were caused by a negligently repaired heating system inside the residence. Sullivan was a friend of Kelli, the daughter of Edward and Tami.
“It is particularly sad that when the Ashcrafts are grieving for the loss of their daughter and her friend, that friend’s estate has been convinced by an out-of-town attorney to mount an aggressive and public attack on not only the Ashcrafts but on our clients,” said Carla J. Higginson, corporate counsel to Inter-Island Propane and Jim’s Heating. “This does not help facilitate the healing process for anyone or for the community as a whole at the sad loss of these two young people.”
The Ashcrafts could not be reached for a comment by press deadline.
According to the lawsuit, toxicology reports showed that the level of carbon monoxide in Sullivan’s blood was 71 percent carboxyhemoglobin saturation while the average adult human’s blood typically contains less than 3 to 5 percent.
The lawsuit alleges that homeowner Edward Ashcraft negligently repaired and modified the house’s heating system under the instruction of two Friday Harbor companies, Jim’s Heating and Refrigeration and Inter-Island Propane, LLC, both of which are owned and operated by Jimmie Lawson, II.
According to the lawsuit, “the repairs and modifications did not satisfy local building safety codes and manufacturer standards.” It claims that the companies “knew about the negligence but took no action to protect occupants or guests of the home.” The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants’ acts and omissions caused Sullivan’s death as a guest at the residence.
Edward Ashcraft had installed an undersized plastic PVC vent pipe to the system’s exhaust outlet and the PVC pipe released lethal levels of carbon monoxide gas into the living spaces during the night while Sullivan slept, alleges the lawsuit.
“After reviewing the allegations involving our clients, we find no legal or factual basis for their validity. In fact, Inter-Island Propane was not even the supplier of propane to the Ashcraft home where the accident occurred, and there is no legal liability on the part of a supplier for internal equipment function, in any event,” said Higginson. She added that the investigation by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office revealed no culpability on the part of her clients.
The Journal has requested the official sheriff’s report but did not receive documents by press deadline.
“A proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of the situation would have revealed this, as well as other facts, and would have saved much heartache and expense for all concerned,” said Higginson.
Watch the Journal for updates to this story.