Lawsuits involving environmental contaminants, such as lead paint and asbestos, are fairly common, but a new contaminant has become an increasingly common subject of litigation: mold. However, there's significant debate in the scientific community about whether "toxic mold" is actually toxic and even whether the illnesses associated with the presence of molds exist. The Center for Disease Control takes a skeptical stance on the issue, stating that molds are never toxic, although the organization also acknowledges that there are molds that can produce toxins.
Despite this criticism, juries have awarded multimillion dollar verdicts to tenants and building owners against landlords and insurers who failed to take measures to prevent mold. Because this is a new and developing area of litigation and research, lawsuits relating to toxic mold often turn into a "battle of experts." In court each side presents doctors and scientists arguing whether toxic mold really exists. An attorney with experience in toxic mold litigation can be critical to the success of a lawsuit, whether you are the defendant or plaintiff.
Landlord Defenses to Liability
Although there are no federal and few state laws that specifically mention mold it is generally illegal for landlords to rent a property that is unfit to live in, or "uninhabitable." Mold that causes health problems for tenants arguably makes a living space uninhabitable. The conditions that produce mold, such as leaky pipes, may even be cause for complaint. One obvious way that landlords can protect themselves is to have the property inspected, treated, and repaired regularly.
Landlords can also use their lease agreement to make the tenant at least partially responsible for preventing mold problems from developing or for notifying the landlord of mold before harm to the person or property occurs. The tenant may be required to report any mold or mold producing conditions when they arise, or make the property available for periodic inspection and treatment. The lease may waive liability for the landlord where the tenant fails to inform the landlord, or where the tenant created the mold producing conditions.
An experienced attorney can be helpful in crafting a lease that ensures that the landlord and tenant cooperate in preventing mold and mold conditions from arising. In the event of a lawsuit, evidence such as this will help the landlord establish that their efforts to locate and remove mold were thorough, shielding them from many kinds of negligence-based liability.
Tenant Causes of Action
Tenants who become ill as a result of the presence of toxic mold may be able to sue their landlord, insurer, contractors or subcontractors, architects, material suppliers and manufacturers, or the previous homeowner for monetary damages to cover expenses related to the mold. These expenses may include medical bills and the cost of getting rid of the mold.
Tenants may sue for negligence where a party created the conditions for mold, or failed to remove mold. They may also sue for failing to properly clean up a previous contamination, or for introducing contaminated materials to a previously mold-free space. In addition, previous owners may be liable for failure to disclose the presence of mold.
An attorney can help you devise a strategy to recover if you have been harmed by toxic mold. They can assist in determining the claims that are most likely to succeed in your jurisdiction, given the facts, and can help identify the appropriate party to sue. Finally, an attorney can be helpful in identifying and retaining expert witnesses that can help prove the connection between your medical issues and the presence of mold.
Find an Attorney
An experienced toxic mold attorney can be helpful regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or defendant. Toxic mold cases often involve complicated arguments about both law and science. They also typically involve multiple causes of action, which make them difficult to pursue or defend against. An attorney who is experienced in mold litigation in your state can help tell your side of the story and obtain relief.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.