I’ve done a few mold cases in my career, and turned down a lot more. Mold requires water to grow, so the first thing I do when evaluating cases where people are complaining of mold is to determine where the water is coming from. Frequently mold is just the symptom of a much larger construction defect that becomes the focus of the case. Next, I determine if my client or their family is experiencing any health problems. If they are experiencing headaches, breathing problems, fatigue, congestion, light sensitivity and other symptoms, you can suspect a mold problem. It also will make a huge difference in damages if the medical problems go away once they leave the area of the mold, or if they become permanent. From there, I have tests run on the mold to determine what species are present. Most every residence has some mold, so you have to have a scientific test to determine if there is mold present that can cause a person’s symptoms. When it is determined that there is mold that is causing my client’s problems, we have to determine how to fix the conditions causing the mold and how to remediate the existing mold. Simply wiping off the mold with regular cleaning supplies is not recommended as they can release spores into the air and cause a worse problem. In addition, I have to make sure my client hasn’t caused the mold issues. In bad cases, the client will move out of the house. If they do that, they need to make sure the air conditioning continues to run or the mold will rapidly spread making the problem worse, and harming the case as it gives a defendant the argument that the mold didn’t exist until the client moved out.
Therefore, mold cases require multiple experts–an professional engineer and/or a building contractor for construction issues that caused the leaking and/or mold and a cost to repair; a mold expert to do the testing for air and surface mold and the species; a doctor or other medical expert (usually a specialist rather than a family physician) to give the opinion that the mold caused the person’s symptoms; and a remediation expert to testify on the process and cost of a cleanup of the residence. Because of the experts involved, mold cases can get expensive as all those experts will expect to be paid before the case is settled or resolved, and regardless on the amount or existence of a favorable outcome for the person.
I have reviewed a few cases for mold where the person with the problems is a renter and not the owner. In that case, the damages are much less as the renter has no claim for the amount to fix the problem, just the cleanup costs to their personal items; any health problems (which again usually go away after the leave the mold environment); and rent abatement. If they have to leave for medical purposes (and they should get that in writing from a doctor or the county health department) they are constructively evicted and can get damages depending on the length remaining on their lease.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.