$3.2 million settlement goes to girl, 4

January 29, 1993|By New York Times News Service

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- A 4-year-old girl whose parents and sister were asphyxiated by fumes from a gas-fired heater used to de-ice the driveway of their home will be the main beneficiary of a $3.2 million settlement.

The case is believed to be the first in which a home-seller has been held criminally liable for selling a house with a fatal defect.

The girl, Annabelle Cifarelli, was the only member of her family to survive the accident, in which her parents, Linda and John Cifarelli, and her sister, Nina, were killed.

The three were found dead in their bedrooms Dec. 10, 1988. An investigation determined that the heater's vent had not opened properly and that carbon monoxide fumes consequently were released into the house. Annabelle and an adult house guest survived because they were near a window that had been left open.

Stephen Converse Brooks, a businessman who sold the house to the Cifarellis, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in October.

According to trial testimony, when Brooks sold the house to the Cifarellis in the fall of 1988 he knew that the heater had malfunctioned but did not disclose that fact to them.

He is serving a four-year prison term at the Chittenden Correctional Center.

The agreement, in civil suits against the companies that installed and repaired the de-icing system, was announced Jan. 14.

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