Mold Can be a Health Hazard!
Quite simply, mold stinks. Have you ever gone to look at an apartment rental, and it stinks of mold? Mold can be more than just a nuisance; long-term exposure can be a health hazard as well.
Mold and fungal spores are everywhere, and can enter your home through the air. When the spores encounter a humid, warm environment, they grow- on and in walls, sheetrock, framing, ceiling tiles—almost anywhere with enough moisture. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that long-term exposure to certain molds that produce “mycotoxins,” that may cause sinus infection (chronic sinusitis), nosebleeds, worsening asthma, and other symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nasal congestion, decreased cognitive ability, and mental fogginess. For example, the CDC reports that Aspergillosis is “an infection caused by Aspergillus, a common mold (a type of fungus) that lives indoors and outdoors. Not everyone is susceptible to respiratory problems from mold, and most people breathe in Aspergillus spores every day without getting sick.
There are currently no accepted standards (state or federal) for healthy levels of airborne mold, or mold spores.
If you have suffered symptoms following exposure to mold, you have rights under Connecticut law. Currently, the only Connecticut laws that specifically address mold contamination as a public health hazard apply to schools, which requires local school boards to evaluate for exposure to mold and to monitor indoor air quality. See Public Act No. 03-220.
Although there are no laws specific to residential leases, tenants have legal remedies under Connecticut law. Every residential lease agreement contains an implied warranty of habitability, a guaranty by law that your home will be a suitable place to live, and the law provides protection against landlords who fail to keep their rentals in a safe and liveable condition. Title 47a of the Connecticut General Statutes imposes a duty on landlords to comply “all applicable building and housing codes” and “to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.”
If you report a mold problem to your landlord that he or she fails to remedy, tenants can sue under theories of negligence (failure in a legal duty) and breach of contract. Litigants may be able to recover rent paid when the premises are rendered uninhabitable. Renters may also be able to sue for medical damages—medical bills caused by toxic mold exposure, as well as recovery for expenses incurred such as moving, that resulted from the infestation.
Successful litigation depends on a number of factors. Some key questions include:
Litigants also have to prove causation- that is, that your symptoms were in fact caused by the presence of mold in your home. A key factor in these personal injury claims is the admissibility of expert medical evidence on the effects of mold exposure to health. To prevail on a claim for mold infestation requires a plaintiff to prove that the exposure to mold “caused” the injuries to his or her health and well-being. This can be difficult, but not impossible. There are no State or Federal standards that establish what levels of mold impact a person’s health, and everyone’s susceptibility is different. Moreover, there are no federal guidelines for permissible mold exposure limits, or are there specific diseases linked to mold exposure. Yet, a plaintiff can prove causation by a temporal relationship between the onset of symptoms following exposure to a moldy environment, and expert testimony from doctors familiar with the symptoms of exposure to toxic mold.
Timing of a lawsuit is critical. Cases can be dismissed almost as soon as they begin, for failure to comply with the statute of limitations, the time period in which a litigant is allowed to commence a lawsuit. See Section 52-584 of the Connecticut General Statutes. Connecticut has a strict three-year limitation period for negligence claims, which includes toxic mold litigation. Mollica v. Toohey, 134 Conn.App. 607, 39 A.3d 1202 (2012).
Awards from other jurisdictions have been substantial. In 2003 the Connecticut Attorney General reported the following awards in toxic mold cases:
A Florida jury awarded a county $ 14 million in damages and prejudgment interest for construction defects in a courthouse that led to 15 workers falling ill (Centex-Rooney Construction Co. v. Martin County).
A Sacramento jury awarded $ 2. 7 million to a family that claimed to have suffered a toxic reaction to mold growing in its apartment (Mazza v. Shurtz, 2002).
The Delaware Supreme Court upheld a $1 million award to two tenants after their landlord allegedly failed to fix water leaks and resulting mold growth (New Haverford Partnership v. Stroot, May 8, 2001).
A group of tenants in a New York City housing complex settled for more than $ 1 million after filing numerous mold-related lawsuits against building management.
A tenant in a New York apartment project is seeking $ 180 million for injuries alleged to have been caused by toxic mold.
A Texas woman sued her insurer for failing to adequately repair her 11,500-square foot home after she filed a water damage claim (Ballard v. Fire Insurance Exchange).
Spinella & Associates are experienced attorneys in this area of the law who have successfully represented many clients.
If you have a toxic mold case please contact us without delay.