Over the years, as the injurious health effects of toxic mold have become more readily apparent, several lawsuits in California and other states have arisen based on mold allegations. These lawsuits take many forms, including individuals and families who have sued contractors personally and large insurance companies. A lawyer explains the circumstances surrounding such legal actions and who may be liable if a home is infested with mold.
The Dangers of Toxic Mold
While many common household molds are harmless, there are certain molds that contain poison within their spores. The most dangerous of these toxic molds is Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as toxic black mold. This type of mold can grow on material high in cellulose, including fiberboard and drywall, and requires moisture in order to grow. The majority of health departments have also identified it as a health hazard.
Unfortunately, toxic mold has become a major problem for many homeowners throughout the United States. Not everyone reacts to toxic black mold, but those who are sensitive can develop respiratory problems, fever, and lung infections. Such reactions are most common in children or in people with compromised immune systems or chronic lung infections such as COPD.
Toxic Mold Lawsuits
Plaintiffs who believe they were injured by toxic mold may sue construction companies for faulty construction that led to the mold growth. One notable example of this type of case occurred in 1998, when the Florida court of appeals affirmed a verdict in excess of $14 million against the construction manager who had overseen the construction of a county courthouse overtaken by mold due to construction defects. Lawsuits against construction workers or contractors for toxic mold exposure have also been successful in California, such as the 2001 case Club at Wood Ranch v. Roberts Group where a homeowners association settled a mold lawsuit against builders and contractors for $1.3 million.
Plaintiffs may also file lawsuits against insurance companies for failure to properly cover water damage, leading to the growth of mold. For instance, in a June 2001 Texas case, a family was awarded $32 million in damages when their insurance company's refusal to pay for their water damage claim led to mold spreading throughout their expansive twenty-two-room home. A similar California case, Anderson v. Allstate Insurance Co also resulted in a large verdict, $18 million, for the plaintiff, but the damages were later reduced. The insurance cases are unique among toxic mold claims, as they are based not on the health consequences of the mold to the plaintiffs, but instead on the bad faith of the insurer. As such, as a result of the potential risk to insurance companies, some insurers in areas with large numbers of water damage and mold claims have actually stopped covering mold and water damage in their insurance policies.
Finally, a plaintiff who lives in an apartment building may take action against a landlord when exposure to mold occurs within the building. An example of this type of claim can be seen in a 2001 case where a family was awarded $2.7 million in damages after discovering that their medical problems were caused by a toxic mold infestation in their California apartment, explains a lawyer. In this case, the cause of action was not a bad faith case, but instead a personal injury claim that arose as a result of the dangerous health effects of the mold exposure.