Mold Inside a Building or Home can Cause Illness and Other Damages which can result in a Lawsuit Part-2

January 30, 2012

Last week, we were in the middle of discussing mold claims and various ways that this situation can come about. Elevated levels of airborne mold or mold that visibly grows on material surfaces usually is caused by one or all of the following: water intrusion, excessive moisture intrusion or excessive humidity inside the building. Therefore, when mold is found, it is important to identify the source of the moisture causing the mold growth. Furthermore, when water intrusion or high levels of moisture are observed, it is equally important to check for elevated levels of mold. Experts in building science, construction, interior air quality testing and laboratories must ultimately be consulted to provide opinions as to the existence of mold and the particular types of mold that are occurring in a space where people live or work, as well as the causes of that mold growth.

Once the mold and moisture source is identified, the cause of that moisture and mold growth must also be determined.

The first example I would like to address involves bathrooms which can experience visible mold that grows on tile surfaces or shower curtains.

This situation can be attributed to the high level of moisture that occurs over an extended period of time, especially in smaller bathrooms or when surfaces have not been cleaned regularly. The moisture could be caused by a failure of the occupants to turn on the bathroom fan or alternatively, it could be caused by a fan that does not function at all or properly.

The second example we can consider involves mold that is found to be visibly growing around a window in a commercial building.

In this case, the mold could be caused by a leak in the exterior building cladding, waterproofing or window assembly. It could also be caused by failure of the window sealant, allowing elevated levels of moisture to enter the building. Additionally, it could be caused by the occupants of the building who have simply left the window open.

The determination of the causes in the above examples identifies who is at fault for the mold growth and who is responsible for the associated damage to a property and person.

Damages can be brought for mold which actually damages whatever it is, on which it grows. When you see mold growth, the mold is essentially eating the material on which it sits. Therefore, that material (whether it be a wall, couch or shower curtain) must be replaced. Additionally, all of the infected surfaces must properly removed, and or cleaned so that the visible and microscopic mold no longer exist. This is commonly referred to as mold abatement. The cost of the necessary abatement and testing by qualified individuals is the property damage which is attributable to the mold growth. Additionally, furniture, clothes and other things made of soft materials can be damaged from elevated levels of mold inside a building, which often requires either special cleaning or replacement.

Some people are physically injured when exposed to elevated levels of certain molds in an indoor setting. This physical injury can result from long term exposure to elevated levels of mold, or even short term exposure to elevated levels depending on the particular person, mold types to which they were exposed and the level of the mold type exposure. People are exposed to mold via inhalation, ingestion or through physical contact. The physical injuries could manifest in allergy-type symptoms like sneezing, coughing and other sinus complaints. Others may experience flu like symptoms including extreme fatigue. A doctor who is aware of the existing interior mold levels must evaluate the individual to determine whether a person has suffered a physical injury as a result of the exposure.

As we summarized last week, people are responsible for interior mold damage if it can be proven that a person caused the condition resulting in the mold growth and/or when notified of the problem, they failed to properly abate the situation.

This article was written by attorney Glen Van Dyke of the Van Dyke Law Group, which has offices in Truckee, Eldorado Hills, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Van Dyke has represented thousands of residential and commercial property owners and homeowners’ associations in the resolution of disputes. For more information call 877-868-7013.

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