The suit claims that the June 2016 death of Mark Burrows was the fourth death at the La Paloma Hotsprings and Spa in a five-year span.
Spa owner Meleasa Malzhan, named in the suit along with owner Daniel Wilkerson, declined to comment on the lawsuit. The company’s website says the facility offers clients a soak in hot spring-fed tubs that range in temperature from 98 to 116 degrees for $7 for a half hour.
The lawsuit, filed Jan. 9 in 7th Judicial District Court in Truth or Consequences, claims that any soaking unit with water above 104 degrees violates national and state safety regulations, though the suit notes one cannot turn down the temperature on a natural hot spring.
Such hot water can make users drowsy and possibly pass out, a possible explanation for what happened to Burrows, according to the lawsuit.
Since the room he was in does not have windows, no spa employee was able to notice he was in distress, the suit says. After he failed to emerge from the room at the appointed time, the spa attendant gave a 10-minute courtesy period before checking on him.
When the attendant did check on him, she found him unresponsive in the water, but she was unable to fully pull him out of the water as she waited for emergency responders, according to the suit.
The suit says the spa was negligent in its preparedness for such an emergency.
Customers who soak in a tub sign a release of any right to sue the spa, even in the event of death or negligence from the spa.
Parrish Collins, attorney for Burrows’ estate, said he hopes the lawsuit brings attention to the “seriousness of what is going on. There have been a number of incidents at the same facility, and that’s concerning.”
Burrows’ niece, Aimee Hittinger, said Friday that her uncle had lived in Truth of Consequences for about five years, managing some real estate and filling his time with hiking and traveling, including frequent trips to visit his elderly parents in Washington State.
“He was in perfect condition, excellent health,” she said. “Which is why this is so unfortunate.”