Mold Sparks Tenant Lawsuit: Apartment Residents Say Toxins Making Them Ill
Rocklin, CA – Morgan FeDora wheezes noticeably when she talks and at times finds it difficult to breathe due to major upper respiratory problems, among other ailments.
She also suffers from lethargy, severe headaches, somewhat akin to migraines, a nagging, raspy cough, sinus infections and a rash. All of which can be linked to the discovery of toxicagenic molds in her Rocklin apartment.
“It’s like having the flu 24/7,” said FeDora, whose children suffer from similar symptoms. “All you want to do is sleep. It’s almost like you’re being slowly poisoned to death.”
FeDora is one of 78 current and former tenants of the Park Village Apartments who had no other alternative but to file suit last week against the complex owner for damages – physical, emotional and financial – they know were caused by exposure to high levels of the toxic molds stachybotrys and aspergilus niger.
The Environmental Protection Agency claims that many molds produce allergens, irritants and in some cases potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. Inhaling, ingesting or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, including sneezing, running nose, red eyes and dermatitis. But long term exposure can cause permanent neurological, pathological, immunological and psychological damage. Some molds have even been linked to multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.
Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic, and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of those who are not allergic as well, the EPA claims. But after exposure to many varieties of toxic molds, even those who have enjoyed an excellent health history with no allergies can become hypersensitized.
“I felt it was important to do this, to get people out of harm’s way,” said FeDora, who initiated the contact with Concord law firm Kasdan, Simonds & Epstein LLP. ” I could have walked away and not said anything, but in good conscience I couldn’t do that to my neighbors.”
Sami Shamieh, the attorney handling the case, said Sacramento property management company FPI Management Inc. was served last week on behalf of the complex owner JJF, LLC.
He said he has not received a response yet, but the company has 30 days to do so. Barring a settlement, the court has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Nov. 25, Shamieh said.
Calls to FPI Management Inc. of Sacramento, which manages the complex for JJF, LLC, were not returned and JJF itself could not be reached. The lawsuit represents 87 percent of the complex’s tenants living in 29 of its 44 units and all of them have suffered mold-related health symptoms since living in the complex.
The lawsuit states that the tenants are sick because of defective and substandard repairs conducted by the owner on the units, causing them “to be unfit for human occupation, in that the premises substantially failed to provide effective waterproofing and weather protection, allowing for fungal growth.”
Kellie Dawald, 19 moved into the complex 2 months ago with roommate Calley Henshaw, 20. She had been living with her parents in Granite Bay and this was her first apartment.
She’d never had any type of breathing problems before, but since the move has been to the doctor six times, she said. Her doctor has diagnosed her with asthma, Dawald said.
Henshaw had asthma before they moved in and during their stay she’s noticed it has gotten worse when she is inside the apartment. The women are planning to move out as soon as they are financially able, Dawald said. But the costs of the move and new deposits are daunting.
Since the discovery and testing of the mold in her original apartment, FeDora has been moved to another unit, but there it is contaminated with mold, as well.
She points out black streaks across the bathroom door and patches of dark mold in the corners of the bathroom walls and all around the tub. Black streaks of mold can also be seen growing in the cracking plaster near the toilet.
The new unit is sparsely furnished, primarily with lawn furniture, and her clothing – much of it new – is kept in airtight plastic containers.
Most of her belongings remain in the old apartment because of cross contamination issues, she said. “I miss my couch, I miss my stuff,” FeDora said. “All the family heirlooms I’ve lost, I’m just heartbroken.”
She, too, plans to move, but first must find the financial resources to do so. Doctors have told her that her symptoms will hopefully improve once she finds a new place to live, but they are still trying to determine how much permanent damage has been done to her lungs, brain and central nervous system.
“It’s been a very difficult situation,” FeDora said. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.”