The World Health Organization estimates one in every six commercial buildings in the U.S. suffers from “sick building syndrome.” 20,000 new cases of bacterial pneumonia per year are spread through HVAC systems. And now, many people are attributing these other illnesses to mold.
Of the 100,000 mold species, 200 are known to be allergenic and approximately 50 are toxic. Toxic mold is more frequently found indoors than out. All molds thrive on humid environments such as wall cavities and water damaged buildings — they only need moisture and cellulose to survive. Individual reactions to mold range from a runny nose to nausea to more serious problems.
The media coverage of mold and mold related injuries, mold claims and mold verdicts have focused public attention on the topic.
Consider these recent headlines:
The Delaware Supreme Court upheld a $1.04 million award to two women whose landlord failed to address leaks and mold problems in their apartments, resulting in asthma attacks and other health problems.
An Arizona jury, after only five hours of deliberation, awarded a homeowner and his family $244,000 in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages in a case where an insurance carrier delayed in remediating mold contamination.
What Should You do About a Potential Mold and Mildew Damage Claims?
If you are a potential defendant (contractor, property owner…), consider having your contracts revised to limit potential mold claim exposure. This may be done by limiting damage claims to either the replacement of the defective product or service or the value of the goods or services sold, whichever is lesser. As well, include a mutual waiver of consequential damages. The key in any mold or construction defect claim is to attempt to eliminate tort and punitive damages while capping contract damages. If you are a potential plaintiff (homeowner, tenant, employee…), first seek medical attention. Next, determine the source of the water leak or mold growth. If possible, prior to any remediation, contact your insurance carrier, homeowners’ association, landlord, or employer and report the situation. Document the damage, illness, and request for relief. What you cannot and should not do is ignore the probability that a mold issue will impact you, one way or another.