Workers in California
Sue Agency Landlord, Allege Poor Indoor Air Quality Caused
Twenty-four California employees filed individual claims
against their agency's landlord Dec. 18, 2002, alleging that toxic mold on
the work premises caused them to suffer a variety of health problems (Haag
v. Lawrence Family LLC, , Cal. Super. Ct., No. 28801, complaint
The complaints, filed in the Superior Court of San
Benito County, allege that "chronic water intrusion and leakage" at a
building leased by the Department of Child Support Services led to the
growth of toxic mold, including stachybotrys.
The claims further
allege that the landlord, Lawrence Family LLC, was repeatedly told about
the mold problem and resulting poor air quality but did nothing despite
promises to rectify the situation.
As a result of the mold
exposure, the 24 employees of the San Benito County Department of Child
Support Services experienced respiratory, gastrointestinal, sinus, and
skin problems, said Charles Kelly II, an attorney at San Francisco-based
law firm Hersh & Hersh who is representing the
According to the World Wide Web site of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, toxic molds release spores that
harbor chemicals called mycotoxins. Breathing the spores and mycotoxins
can cause problems such as eye irritation, wheezing, and shortness of
breath, depending on the individual's sensitivity. People with chronic
respiratory diseases could experience breathing difficulties.
said that tests conducted on behalf of the employees and the county have
confirmed the presence of stachybotrys and other toxic molds throughout
the one-story building.
Linda Kansteiner, an attorney representing
the building's landlord, was not available for comment. A press statement
issued by Hersh & Hersh said that the landlord has until Feb. 8 to
respond to the claims.
Workplace Exposure to Toxic Molds.
employer/employee context, civil claims alleging injury from workplace
exposure to toxic molds are relatively rare because of the exclusive
remedy of workers' compensation laws, Kelly said. Employers often own the
buildings in which their employees work, and work-related injuries are
addressed solely through the workers' compensation system.
case is unique because the county leases the building in which these
employees work from a private land owner, so that's why we're able to sue
the land owner in a civil action," Kelly explained.
Toxic mold has
become more prevalent in the news because of increasing awareness within
the medical and scientific communities about the dangers and risks of the
molds. Lawsuits based on mold-related injuries correspondingly will become
more common, Kelly said. "You're going to see many more lawsuits against
property owners who are not taking care of their properties," he
In their separate claims, the 24 county employees are
requesting damages for medical bills, loss of earning capacity, pain and
suffering and emotional distress, and for the costs of future medical
A few of the workers have filed workers' compensation
claims, Kelly said.
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