by Tom Bedsole : Locke Reynolds
Mold is old. Really. It has been a persistent problem for humans and animals throughout the ages. Shortly after handing down the ten commandments, God addressed mold. Leviticus 14:33-45 tells of how the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to deal with a dwelling with mold. A priest was to inspect the house, the walls were to be scraped, the contaminated materials were to be discarded in an unclean part of town. If that didn’t work, the house was to be torn down. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Today, the hottest toxic tort/construction defect claim is mold. It comes in all shapes and sizes and no builder is exempt. This new liability problem has been a waterloo for builders, insurers and building product manufacturers. Perhaps you’ve seen the sensational stories in Time Magazine, the New York Times Magazine or on the ABC News program 20/20. These stories are sensational in order to attract viewers and sell magazines and newspapers. The easy story for the press, and the one that gets told, incites fear in the general public. Are the mold stories true? Is mold harmful? Should builders be concerned? The stories are true, mold may or may not be harmful, and builders should most definitely be concerned.
What is happening with Mold?
In Delaware, an apartment resident with a moisture damaged bathroom ceiling sued her landlord, claiming neurological impairment and exacerbation of her already severe asthma. The jury awarded her $780,000.
In Oregon, a family home was infested with mold that was allegedly causing health problems. The problem was so pervasive that the cost of eliminating the mold exceeded the value of the home. The couple had the home burned to the ground by the local fire department to solve the problem.
A Phoenix, Arizona lawyer who lectures to real estate agents and brokers nationwide reportedly recommends that every agent and broker suggest a mold inspection, in a routine manner, the same way that a roof, foundation or radon inspection might now be obtained.
After spending thousands of dollars in a failed attempt to rid their house of mold, a Wisconsin family abandoned their $300,000 home with only the clothes on their backs. The water infiltration was allegedly caused by faulty windows, leading to a pervasive mold problem. The family is now claiming that the mold caused brain damage in their daughter, and chronic nosebleeds, swollen lymph nodes, and asthma in their son.
A beach house in Malibu, California was abandoned after its residents suffered unexplained illnesses. After finding extensive toxic mold growth, the home was shrink wrapped, torn down and buried.
Mold is Here
Just in case you’ve been too busy building homes to watch the news, these stories are not isolated incidents. Mold has arrived in Central Indiana. Several lawsuits are pending, local news outlets have been running specials on the issue, and one local legislator has promised to introduce legislation to address the problem.
In recognition that the issue is here, and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, your Association is in the process of analyzing the issue to help our members deal with the problem. As Steve Lains told you in December, a special taskforce has been created by the Association to analyze and deal with the various aspects of the problem.
Over the next few months, these articles will also discuss the various aspects of the problem. I will describe the various types of mold, what we know about them and molds claimed effects on humans; construction and warranty issues that have mold implications; insurance issues you will face when a mold problem arises; and the legal realities of mold claims by homeowners. Be forewarned, it’s the same old world and it’s full of mold.
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.