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After 11 Years, Lawsuit Against Housing Authority Gets To Court

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RALEIGH, N.C. — An 11-year controversy has moved to the courtroom, where a lawyer with a record of winning multi-million dollar lawsuits has his sights set on the

Raleigh Housing Authority.

Residents are suing the authority over the deaths of two people from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Anger at the Raleigh Housing Authority boiled over in 1992, after two Walnut Terrace residents died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Fumes killed Lorraine Hinton and her son as they slept in their apartment above a boiler room.

An investigation showed the Raleigh Housing Authority knew months earlier that leaking pipes could be fatal. Families were moved, and the pipes were finally fixed, but many residents felt it was too little, too late.

Eleven years later, the lawsuit is finally going to court.

Shaw alumnus Willie Gary -- representing the residents -- has earned a fortune as a personal-injury lawyer. Now he wants justice for the residents of Walnut Terrace.

"For five years, they lived in what is tantamount to a gas chamber," he said, "Because these carbon monoxide gases were escaping into their apartments."

Lawyers for the Housing Authority admit there were problems at Walnut Terrace. But they say Gary's clients don't have a case.

"There really is not evidence of true excessive exposure to carbon monoxide in the units we are talking about," said Dan Hartzog.

A jury will make that decision after what's expected to be a month-long trial.

Lawyers hope to finish choosing a jury Wednesday morning and begin opening arguments in the afternoon.

Carbon monoxide cases are the most common accidental poisonings in the country. Every year, more than 40,000 thousand people are rushed to the hospital for treatment, and about 800 die.

Cases often peak in winter, when people start to heat their homes.

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