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Joanne's Story   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Posted by Susan Lillard  
Sunday, 03 October 2004

We have been exposed to toxic mold that made us desperately ill and we nearly lost one child. The insurance company first denied the mold?s existence and then failed to report to us the poisonous levels they detected. Our situation highlights the trauma that can be inflicted on a family if toxic mold is not recognized promptly and treated seriously. The travesty of our insurance carrier?s neglect compounds it into a nightmare.

We don?t want anyone else to suffer as we have. Toxic Mold caused by Hurricane Floyd water damage forced us out of our lovely home 4 1/2 years ago. After a period of homelessness, we now live in a camper, while we wait, in vain for our insurance company to handle our claim. Why do we have insurance? So we can live in a camper for years? This is a well-documented, world-class runaround. And it nearly killed us.

Please tell our story.

Three years ago, we were living a normal life in a newly built home with our four children. Now, due to the malicious behavior of our insurance company, who has ignored this severe case of toxic mold, we are still not living in our house, even though we continue to pay a hefty mortgage.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused significant water damage to the interior of our home in the attic space, bedroom and the general living areas. Although minor surface repairs were made, when mold appeared soon after the initial water damage, the insurance company refused to reinspect despite my frequent calls with descriptions of a spreading growth in multiple areas. When they finally did a test, they then tried to hide the test results from me, leaving me to live in a house that was contaminated with two types of dangerous mold, stachybotrys and aspergillus. They had proof of the mold and STILL didn't tell me. It is now three years later and they are still trying to ignore the obvious, forcing my family to live in a camper - no small feat for a mother with 5 small children.

We have been out of our home for nearly 4 1/2 years, due to the One Beacon insurance company, formerly Commercial General Union (CGU). The local branch is at 177 Hillside Avenue, White Plains, NY 10603. They can be reached at 914-422-0262. The corporate headquarters in Boston.

Their slogan is: ?We?re There Before You Need Us?. This is so true. They were indeed there to collect the insurance premiums, but they are NOT there now ? when we need them.

Due to the callousness and carelessness of our insurance company, my family members suffered serious illness. We found ourselves in the hospital about a dozen times in 6 months. The children and I were treated for numerous symptoms consistent with toxicity and infection, without support or shelter. We are still shocked that our insurance company has such a flagrant disregard for their responsibilities.

We had an "all risk" policy of insurance, so this is covered unless the insurance company can prove otherwise. One Beacon told us that they needed some kind of indication to show that the home was potentially uninhabitable for them to do anything.

Here are a few highlights of our journey with One Beacon and our exposure to Toxic Mold:

  • We felt like we were being poisoned. When I called the Poison Control Center, they said, ?It sounds like you are having the symptoms of toxins or arsenic?.
  • I called the Insurance Company to tell them I was seeing ?black fuzzy mold? on the side of the closet framing.
    • They sent an adjuster to photograph it, but not to test for it. They responded with a letter stating ?the black staining? you are finding in the home should be sprayed with paint. Your illnesses are due to home construction dust. We still have the letter.
  • An Emergency Room Doctor at Westchester Medical Center gave me a letter stating that we shouldn?t return to our home because our symptoms appeared to be related to a toxic mold or fungus. We have the letter.
  • The insurance company ignored it.
  • The Board of Health wrote a letter saying we shouldn?t return to the house. We have the letter.
    • The insurance company ignored it.
  • Finally, after endless stalling, the Insurance Company hired an Environmental Specialist to perform tests. A month or so later the tests came back indicating dangerous molds aspergillus, stachybotrys, etc. He called and left a message saying: ?Everybody needs to get out of the house ? now?. We have a copy of the tests.
    • At that point, the insurance company should have helped us find a place to live at a minimum. But they ignored our pleas, as I called to beg them on a daily basis. Each time, they would say ?I?m sorry Mrs. Aquilino, I don?t know what to tell you?. I would say, ?What should we do, my children and I have nowhere to sleep? Isn?t this why I have homeowners insurance?? They never came through.

Meanwhile, the mycotoxins accumulated in our bodies. Once we left the house, they were coming out of our bloodstream, causing red dots on my skin. The children and I had rashes, coughs and headaches. The blood vessels along the children?s chests, backs, necks, sides of their faces were unusually visible. We developed pneumonia and our 9 year old developed pleurisy and required 5 days of oxygen. It was touch and go, and there were no answers. The toxins also caused clouding of my vision.

  • Our three beloved pets died living out only half their expected lives following the exposure to the mold. We lost our dear 5 yr old Great Dane ?Rudy?, our 6 yr. old Pomeranian ?Lisel?, and our 3 yr. old canary ?Sophie?.

We?ve lost everything we own, because it is contaminated with infectious black mold spores. We?re still paying the mortgage on the home we can?t occupy. We don?t have a normal life anymore. No playdates, no birthday parties. In addition, we live next to our once beautiful home - which poisoned us.

Most recently, our insurance company has proposed that they will ?clean? the house to make it livable. But they won?t document the cleaning method and they will not provide a warranty that this solution works. These same people stupidly proposed that we 'paint over' our 'black staining' when we first alerted them to the problem. So, it is difficult to trust this ambiguous ?solution.?

In desperation, we hired the firm of Weg and Myers.

Joanne A.
White Plains, NY

Last Updated (Friday, 22 July 2005)

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