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Mold Linked to Asthma  Mold and Asthma

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                        The stories below are real people with their own real stories.  Does anything sound familiar?

For no reason at all I started to run a low grade fever all of the time. The doctor said it's probably just allergies. But, it would go away and  then come back, sometimes I'd get sick to my stomach. My apartment had a water leak coming from the unit upstairs, their toilet drain line had broken and leaked down into my unit. I called Apartment Management eight times and they did nothing. Finally the Apartment Manager came out and made a joke out of it. It was no joke to me I was sick from it. I reported to, They put me in touch with the right City and County professionals, they came out and found black mold growing inside of the walls of my apartment unit behind my bedroom and bathroom walls. Apartment Management had to buy me a new bed, new furniture, all new clothes and paid to relocate me to another unit. No one listened to me, but did.

Jessie K.  Sandy Springs, GA

We moved into our new condominium. Shortly thereafter we noticed a water leak coming from our ceiling. The Condo's Association Management told us the stains in the ceiling were just a water leak, they fixed it and there was nothing to worry about. Within two months my daughter had been back and forth to the doctor with lung and sinus infections several times. We thought she had asthma. It turned out our new dream home had mold and  it was killing my baby. We had to move out of our new home and I am now suing my new Condominium Association for negligence.

Shenisha M.   Alpharetta, GA

I may be old, but I'm not crazy. It started with headaches all the time when I was in my house. When I left my home the headaches would stop. Then my nose started bleeding, and my arms broke out in a rash. The doctor did not know what was wrong. I went to four different doctors, no one knew what was wrong. The electrician found mold growing in my basement on my HVAC unit from a broken condensation drain line. I had to fight the insurance company for seven months to fix it and I still haven't gotten all the money back that they owe me. It was a nightmare.

Dora B.  Warminster, PA

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           Farmers Insurance must cough up $32 million in Texas toxic mold verdict
              By Vicki Lankarge,

A jury has awarded an Austin, Texas, family $32 million, concluding that a Farmers Insurance Group subsidiary committed fraud by delaying and denying the family's home insurance claim for mold damage.

A Travis County District Court jury agreed with Melinda Ballard and her husband, Ron Allison, that Fire Insurance Exchange, a Farmers subsidiary, failed to promptly cover the necessary repairs for a water leak, thus allowing a toxic mold called "stachybotrys" to invade the couple's 22-room mansion. The insidious black mold forced them and their young son to abandoned the home in 1999. On the advice of Dr. David Straus, a leading mold expert, they left quickly with just the clothes on their backs.

Stachybotrys, a toxic mold that has been found in all 50 states, has been named as the culprit in several high-profile cases of "sick building syndrome." In the mid-90s, the mold was blamed for the deaths 16 infants who suffered pulmonary hemorrhages in Cleveland.

The Texas case is a legal landmark because it is the first time that a jury has awarded a homeowner damages in a mold case against an insurance company, rather than against a builder or building owners. The jury's 11-1 decision of $32 million is based on:
· $6.2 million in actual damages. The house will have to be decontaminated, leveled, and rebuilt.
· $12 million in punitive damages. This amount is a warning to other insurers as well as a punishment for Farmers.
· $5 million for mental anguish.
· $8.9 million in lawyers' fees.

Farmers is waiting to see if Judge John Dietz reduces the jury's award when he officially enters the judgment on June 25, 2001. "We heard the jury's verdict," says Mary Flynn, a Farmers spokesperson. "It is now up to the court to enter a judgment in this case. Once that is done, we will review that judgment and if an appeal is necessary, we are confident we will prevail."

Homeowners and insurers eye case closely
Both homeowners and insurers are watching this case carefully. Texas insurance law has a liberal stance toward coverage of mold damage that is the direct result of a "covered peril," such as a burst water pipe. This is not true of most other states. A standard home insurance policy typically does not cover losses caused by rust, rot, mold or other fungi, even as a result of a covered peril. Most insurers consider mold a "home maintenance" issue.

But now Farmers wants out of having to cover mold, too. The Texas Department of Insurance has scheduled a public hearing on June 26, 2001, to gather testimony from consumers, bankers, and insurers on whether it should ultimately grant Farmers — and by extension, all insurers licensed to do business in Texas — the right to exclude mold damage from coverage. According to Farmers spokesperson Bill Miller, Farmers gets more than two-thirds of its mold claims from Texas and is projecting nearly a five-fold increase in its residential claims for mold damage this year, costing the company about $85 million.

Texas homeowners with mold problems are alarmed. Even if the mold in their homes doesn't cause any medical problems, such as asthma problems, it can lead to "dry rot" and eventually cause severe structural damage to their homes.

Picking the wrong person
The mold trial has garnered extensive publicity because of the high media profile kept by Ballard, a former New York City public relations executive. According to her lawyer, Houston attorney Fred Hagans, when Farmers began its campaign to delay and deny Ballard's mold claims, they picked the wrong person. "Melinda wasn't going to take it lying down, or get frustrated, give up, and go away," says Hagans.

Indeed, Ballard took to network television news programs, local, and national radio stations, and the Internet to tell her family's story. That story includes a son, who at age 4 began coughing up blood, and a husband Ballard says had to quit his job as an investment banker because he, too, began coughing up blood and eventually suffered respiratory damage and memory loss.

Hagans says he could not introduce medical testimony on the health effects of mold at the trial because a Texas Supreme Court decision mandates a level of scientific proof that has not yet been reached in respect to the medical problems associated with stachybotrys. However, even without medical testimony, the jury sided with Ballard and Allison.

"This case wasn't about sympathy," says Hagans. "It wasn't about 'Poor brain-damaged Ronny.' It was about an insurer that failed to keep its promises and the jury could very well imagine what happened to that family could happen to them."

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