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Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller Sued Over Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Her House

A guest sleeping in Miller's back house nearly didn't wake up.
By Tim Rogers |

In January, Emanuela Tebaldi and her children filed suit against Laura Miller and her husband, Steve Wolens, seeking damages as a result of an accident that occurred in the couples’ house. It’s an odd deal.

In 2016 Tebaldi was dating Gary Wolens, Steve’s brother. They traveled from London, where Tebaldi lives, and stayed at the Miller-Wolens house in Preston Hollow. They all had dinner together in the main house, and then Tebaldi and Gary repaired to a bedroom above a detached garage. From the suit:

Unknown to Plaintiff Tebaldi, Defendants, Steve Wolens and/or Laura Miller had left their car running in the garage of their home below the bedroom where Plaintiff Tebaldi was sleeping. The next morning, July 12, 2016, Plaintiff Tebaldi had not awoken and had missed her dental appointment. Defendant Steve Wolens asked the housekeeper to check on Mr. Gary Wolens and Plaintiff Tebaldi, and she found them in the bedroom above the garage unconscious and unresponsive. Plaintiff Tebaldi was not breathing and an ambulance was called. Plaintiff Tebaldi was transported to Dallas Presbyterian Hospital where she was admitted for carbon monoxide poisoning. Plaintiff Tebaldi suffered serious injuries as a result of prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide. When medical professionals concluded that it was medically safe for Plaintiff Tebaldi to travel, she was transported back to the United Kingdom by air ambulance where Plaintiff Tebaldi was hospitalized to continue her treatment and care.

Tebaldi says in her suit that she has “sustained mental and physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, and loss of earning capacity, all of which are in reasonable probability permanent.” Her kids are plaintiffs because they are claiming loss of their “mother’s consortium and household services.”

Miller, for those who need a reminding, was a columnist for D Magazine and then for the Dallas Observer before she was elected to Council and eventually mayor. When I called her to ask about the suit, she referred me to her lawyer for the matter, Jeff Tillotson. Tillotson sent me the following statement:

My clients regret that this unfortunate accident occurred and are disappointed that it could not be amicably resolved. Despite multiple efforts to resolve this matter, Ms. Tebaldi and her lawyer have chosen instead to litigate. Laura visited Ms. Tebaldi in London in October 2016 and was pleased to see she was doing well.

In December 2016, my clients submitted a written complaint about the accident to Mercedes Benz of North America and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is not a new issue for Mercedes, which has litigated previous claims and lawsuits involving its keyless ignition system. Mercedes has chosen, despite customer deaths and injuries due to carbon monoxide poisoning, not to rectify the problem, which has been successfully resolved by other car manufacturers through the installation of automatic shut-off systems.

In fact, Mercedes Benz has been designated as a responsible third party in the lawsuit as ordered by the Court.

Tillotson is not making that up about the Benz’s keyless ignition system. But beyond that, I guess I’m left with a bunch of questions that can’t be answered, given that litigation is underway.

What did they have for dinner?

According to the suit, Tebaldi went to bed hours before Gary. How did he not hear the car running in the garage when he turned in for the night?

What kind of Mercedes was it?

What’s up with this housekeeper? Because if I had a brother, and if that brother had stayed in my garage apartment, and if I thought he’d overslept, I wouldn’t send the domestic help to wake him up.

Is Gary OK?

Does Miller hold it against her brother-in-law that his ex-girlfriend is suing her?

Surely Gary is no longer dating Tebaldi, right?

I guess we will all have to stay tuned until this is settled.

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