Weak Government Regulations Made Me Do It, Legal Sea Foods CEO Claims About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Over the weekend, a carbon monoxide leak in a Long Island Legal Sea Foods restaurant resulted in 27 hospitalizations and one death. Now the head of the upscale chain is trying to pin the blame for the leak—the result of a defective heating system, authorities say—on inadequate government regulations.

New York state fire code requires carbon monoxide detectors in locations where people sleep but not in restaurants, shops, or other commercial establishments. In a statement Sunday, Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, said the tragedy “highlights the inadequacy of the codes for carbon monoxide detectors in commercial spaces.” 

How about the inadequacy of Legal Sea Foods' efforts to protect its customers and workforce? Conspicuously lacking from Berkowitz's statement was any hint of personal responsibility for the poisonings.

Regardless of whether you think the government has a legitimate interest in requiring carbon monoxide detectors, it's absurd to suggest this tragedy is rooted in a failure of regulatory oversight. The government shouldn't need to hold business owners' hands and walk them through every single step of creating a safe environment.

The Long Island mall in which Legal Sea Foods operates is fitted with multiple carbon monoxide detectors, according to Newsday. And it seems the mall's owners got the gumption to do this without any sort of legal requirement. After all, not killing or sickening employees and customers is only good business sense. And pumping deadly combustion gases into your workplace is already against the law. 

For under $25 and 10 minutes of forethought, this Legal Sea Foods tragedy could have been prevented. Instead, the restaurant's leadership decided to meet only the bare minimum of safety requirements—and that's on them. 

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    Now I want to see that guy tossed in the clink.

  • kinnath||

    Stocks. Pain and public humiliation are necessary.

  • Pro Libertate||

    For the love of God.

  • JW||

    I hope his Board roasts him over an open pit and eats him with a nice Chianti.

    He has now, of course, a promising career in politics.

  • Pro Libertate||

    "It's not my fault! I complied!"

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    STOP RESISTING!

  • gaijin||

    Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods

    They are called Massholes for a reason.

  • John||

    Not that he shouldn't be on the hook, but he makes a valid point, though not the one he intended. Codes sometimes in fact make things more dangerous since they don't cover every possible danger and encourage people to mindlessly follow the code at the expense of everything else.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The market is so messed up that people don't even want to think for themselves any more.

  • KDN||

    Yep. This isn't a new phenomenon, either. It's a major reason as to why the Titanic had so few lifeboats.

  • Brett L||

    Man, its almost like this could apply to well-meaning "right to associate" laws making some associations more equal than others.

  • ||

    Hahaha

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    If there are no standards, people must create their own. When the government creates standards, those become the minimum, and everyone tries to do as little as possible beyond them. It is a race to the bottom.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    In fact, going beyond the minimum standards may very well be illegal, like if someone wants to label their products "GMO free".

  • John||

    Exactly. By creating the code, you are creating the assumption that is all that needs to be done.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I get what you're saying but if this guy had any employment law representation whatsoever then 10 minutes into the conversation the attorney would have told him, "the regulations are not a safe harbor". I mean, that's Basics of Business Law 101.

  • John||

    I am not letting him off the hook. I am just saying this disaster is an example of codes doing harm.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Regardless of whether you think the government has a legitimate interest in requiring carbon monoxide detectors, it's absurd to suggest this tragedy is rooted in a failure of regulatory oversight.

    If not for LAWS prohibiting murder, we would see hundreds of thousands of violent deaths every day!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    going beyond the minimum standards may very well be illegal, like if someone wants to label their products "GMO free".

    Or independently testing their beef for bovine spongiform encephalitis.

  • UnCivilServant||

    *pedant*

    It's bovine spongiform ensephalopathy. (neural tissue dying in pockets leaving a sponge-like structure) and encephalitis is an inflammation of brain or membrane.

    */pedant*

    I had to, the compulsion was too great.

  • JW||

    "Come and eat at Legal Seafood, where we'll poison you if the government doesn't tell us that we can't."

    The good news is that this will give proglodytes new ammunition to throw in our faces.

    SEE? SEE?? Thanks a lot, fuckhead.

  • Jerryskids||

    I am sure that there are plenty of news outlets that will tell you this was a senseless tragedy because it is so obvious that commercial establishments should have CO detectors - but not a one of them bothered to warn people last week that this place lacked such an obvious safety feature. Which suggests that the danger is not in fact obvious or that these news people were criminally irresponsible in not drawing attention to such an obvious danger.

  • The Original Jason||

    It is legal, after all.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    "Come and eat at Legal Seafood, where we'll poison you if the government doesn't tell us that we can't."

    This made me LOL. Thanks.

  • tarran||

    This is horseshit!

    I did some consulting work for a world-famous-in-New-England Property and Casualty insurer. I've seen the forms they use when loss control reps tour restaurants, and they forms do ask for location and details of CO monitors.

    I would be very surprised if their insurer didn't ask Legal Seafoods about CO monitors.

  • Almanian!||

    This. I work in a manufacturing plant. We heat treat steel at VERY high temps using natural gas ovens.

    Know one thing our insurer won't allow in our plant? Smoking cigarettes. What?!! when we're burning natural gas and making steel molting hot??! How bad is someone smoking a cigarette?? (never mind it's also illegal in MI)

    Yes. Our insurers look for this. Cause it's a risk we shouldn't tolerate. So they look for cigarette butts when they visit and ensure we can show records of discipline when we've caught empls smoking. Cause otherwise "obviously you don't care, and will endure this risk, so UP go your premiums!" And we don't WANT that...

    This aside from all basic safety regulations and company policy, etc. etc./ Just for insurance purposes.

    Fuck this fucking guy. I hope he gets hit by a truck and drowns in his own blood. Fuckhead.

  • tarran||

    This is horseshit!

    I did some consulting work for a world-famous-in-New-England Property and Casualty insurer. I've seen the forms they use when loss control reps tour restaurants, and they forms do ask for location and details of CO monitors.

    I would be very surprised if their insurer didn't ask Legal Seafoods about CO monitors.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Do they underwrite server squirrels?

  • Paul.||

    Bonded AND licensed.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    They did underwrite squirrels served by Legal

  • Paul.||

    The problem is that with the regulatory state, it creates a framework to make people believe "I'm compliant, therefore I'm safe".

  • JW||

    It's like Target and how it was PCI compliant with the credit card industry rules. Except that they weren't, since they didn't segregate their networks.

    And they hired that idiot who gave credentials to an equally idiotic vendor, who then made them available.

    Certification means jack and squat, as long as you're staffed and managed by imbeciles.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's why you have to be really careful setting the standard as equal to or better than industry standards in data security, because that may not be (and often isn't) enough. And heaven help you if you set the bar to government standards. I mean, government standards somehow let an outside contractor run off with what should have been the most secure database in the U.S. Not part of it, all of it.

  • Paul.||

    And they hired that idiot who gave credentials to an equally idiotic vendor, who then made them available.

    So they didn't get hacked, they got dumbassed.

  • SIV||

    The Triangle Shirtwaist factory had a NYC-approved fire escape.

  • sarcasmic||

    When freedom means asking permission and obeying orders, then as long as you've asked permission and obeyed orders you're not responsible for whatever happens.

    Since they had asked permission, and there was no order mandating detectors for them to disobey, then they're absolved of all responsibility.

    We're fucked as a society.

  • Raston Bot||

    He was found dead on the toilet. That's unfortunate.

    McNally said the town discovered the failure in the flue pipe of one of the restaurant's water heaters Saturday night and issued the establishment a summons for defective heating equipment.

    The restaurant had passed its last town inspection, in March 2013, and was due for another one at the end of next month, he said. The flue pipe would have been examined during the inspection, McNally said.

    Initial reports indicate a Reason server squirrel died in the vent causing the clog... so there's a silver lining.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    In my profession, like in most, the professional standard of care in civil tort goes so far beyond the actual minimum codified regulations, that there is no point in even having the codes. Doing the minimum will get you sued, and your license revoked. There's really no point in the license, either.

  • Paul.||

    Yeah, it's like making all your customers sign wavers. A waver never stopped anyone from successfully suing.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    an ineffective waiver...

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This will go down in history as the Everything not mandatory is prohibited defense.

  • ||

    Exactly.

  • playa manhattan||

    It was the general manager who died, so the CEO couldn't use the preferred blame strategy.

  • JW||

    Seriously? I thought that made it the perfect blame gambit.

  • playa manhattan||

    Maybe if the CEO was smart. This guy called a shitty PR firm.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I don't think you guys wringing your hands are being sufficiently cynical. This guy knows the regulations are meaningless; he's trying to deflect media attention.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    "He's trying to deflect media attention" ... and it will work, sadly. The majority of news accounts seem to be taking the "can you believe there's isn't a regulation about this?" tack. It's actually a brilliant, if despicable, move on his part.

  • ||

    Well, in this idiot's defense, what is he supposed to say? "Our customers died because we don't give a shit about safety. Oopsie! Try the shrimp!"

  • ||

    Well, he could come clean and admit that Legal is overpriced and overhyped and should stick to Boston.

  • tarran||

    Their flagship harborside restaurant destroyed one of my fedora's.

    When I rise to power they will be punished thus: remember the boats with which I will execute the DEA officers and staff? The people force feeding honey and Pizzeria Uno appetizers to the condemned shall be employees of Legal Sea Foods.

  • JW||

    I vote for the Whedonesque justice.

    The Operative: You know, in certain older civilized cultures, when men failed as entirely as you have, they would throw themselves on their swords.
    Dr. Mathias: Well, unfortunately, I forgot to bring a sword.
    Dr. Mathias: [as the Operative pulls out his sword] I would put that down right now if I were you.
    The Operative: Would you be killed in your sleep, like an ailing pet?

  • creech||

    He's supposed to say: "I was in Hawai'i playing golf and I knew nothing about my company's inadequate safety measures until I read about it in the New York Post today."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • sarcasmic||

    It is perfectly legal to grow opium poppies in the United States, as long as you don't know what they are.

  • Brett L||

    And neither do the local law enforcement.

  • Drave Robber||

    How does one prove their ignorance?

  • sarcasmic||

    You don't. They have to prove you're making opium.

  • Paul.||

    They have to prove you're making opium.

    I seriously doubt that.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    You know the really sad thing here is that Mr. Berkowitz really does seem to fit the stereotype of an evil capitalist bastard who wouldn't do a damned thing for his customers or employees unless he had to by order of the law. Instead of hating him, though, the proggies will no doubt laud him as an exemplar of corporate responsibility for taking a stand on behalf of public safety.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    If the past is predictor they will do both: hold him up as an archetypical evil capitalist when it suits them, and then invoke and laud his 'admission' when it does as well.

  • ||

    Is there a reason that smoke + CO detectors aren't the default? We can fit computers more powerful than anything I had in the '90s into our pockets but those darned CO sensors haven't come down in price enough to be standard in any smoke detector?

    A brief skim of Amazon says the combo ones are nearly triple the price.

  • ||

    I blame the market. Clearly we need to mandate demand or suppress pricing until it's cheaper to put both together.

    Evil corporate CO sensor magnates, so willing to trade $$$ for dead bodies.

    /sarcasm

  • The Original Jason||

    I've only seen the combo units recently… it's probably because they're so new that they're so expensive.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Is there a reason that smoke + CO detectors aren't the default?

    Heck, whoever built my home put in carbon monoxide detectors and I don't even have gas service!

  • AuH20||

    Harold Ramis is dead

    A fucking god of comedy. He will be missed.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not that the event doesn't deserve more discussion--it does--but there's a lengthy thread on his passing from earlier today.

    I'm trying to decide which film of his is my favorite. I'm tempted to go with Animal House, though I think more hands were in writing that one than just his. Maybe Ghostbusters?

  • Brett L||

    There are clearly scenes in Ghostbusters where there was no script. I don't say that like it is bad, but when you have Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd with you, sometimes you just say, "here's the setup, go!" And roll film a four or five times.

  • Pro Libertate||

    True enough. But Ramis knew funny.

  • ||

    Makes one want to drill a hole in their head.

  • Sigivald||

    That would have worked if you hadn't stopped him.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    When I was a kid, my father told me, "Never hit anyone in anger, unless you're absolutely sure you can get away with it." I don't know what kind of soldier I'm gonna make, but I want you guys to know that if we ever get into really heavy combat... I'll be right behind you guys. Every step of the way.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Lighten up, Francis.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Also--

    I think this building should be condemned. There's serious metal fatigue in all the load-bearing members, the wiring is substandard, it's completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.
  • Paul.||

    Can't believe no one's mentioned the most libertarian line ever uttered in Cinematic history.

  • Paul.||

    Harold Ramis is dead

    Nutpunch.

    I shall go home and watch Stripes tonight.

  • Rasilio||

    This is hardly surprising. these guys could wrote the book on Regulatory capture.

    I remember when they were first starting out they actually used to advertise that they literally wrote the government regulations of "seafood freshness'

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I don't think I would eat at a place called LEGAL Seafood.

    What's the point?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Illegal seafood is the best kind. Tuna tastes better when its the first fish past the allotment.

  • Paul.||

    Or it has Dolphin in it.

  • Jerryskids||

  • Steve G||

    A belated "Welcome to the party, pal" to ENB

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    Thanks!

  • creech||

    From Legal Foods website:
    "Roger is a member of the Board of Directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Regional Selection Panel for the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships"

    Why am I not surprised??

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Holy. Shit. What a scumbag.

  • Tony||

    The government shouldn't need to hold business owners' hands and walk them through every single step of creating a safe environment.

    Government shouldn't need to tell people not to commit murder. Personal responsibility people.

  • Rasilio||

    Yes, and that is why we punish murderers, the same as the company, it's officers, and the store manager should be held accountable for this incident.

    Or did you somehow think that anyone but the CEO of whole foods was arguing any differently.

  • ||

    Why am I not surprised that you think the only reason people aren't out in the streets killing each other is because the government tells us it's wrong to?

  • Paul.||

    Remember, it's a reflection about how progressives see themselves.

    "I couldn't possibly maintain my composure in the presence of a gun, therefore you must not be able to either!"

  • Tony||

    Because that is the only reason people aren't out in the streets killing each other.

  • Tony||

    More than they already are, I should say.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I predict a multi-year battle between the restaurant chain and the mall owner over whose responsibility it was to inspect and maintain the vent.

  • Paul.||

    Regulation: The noisy killer.

  • Brandybuck||

    Translation: "Stop me before I kill again!"

  • Anvil||

    Blame the govt. for your inadequacy...............bold strategy.

  • Response||

    Not going to defend this bozo of a ceo's request to increase regulations and avoid other legal responsibilities, but isn't the responsibility for deaths on whatever actually caused the release of the carbon monoxide?

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