By Henry Ehrlich
An article in the Wall Street Journal reads:
“Four years ago, a key appellate court decision in Manhattan blocked millions of dollars in legal claims for damages for health effects of mold in buildings, saying that the scientific evidence that mold caused illness was in dispute.
“But a few weeks ago that conclusion was overturned by a split 3-2 decision by another five-judge panel in the same court that found that the scientific literature was now “indicative of a causal relationship.”
“The decision has been the talk of condo and co-op lawyers since, who worry that it will lead to a new wave of personal-injury lawsuits for mold injuries, driving up insurance rates and costs for building owners.”
Mold is one of those nasty allergy issues we follow avidly not only because it is pertinent to allergies and asthma, but because, like food allergy, it is often dismissed by people who don’t know how serious they can be. As Dr. Ehrlich wrote a year ago in a post about exposure to mold (among other things) on farms supposedly leading to a lower incidence of asthma, “The trouble is that medical science has too many variables to draw sweeping conclusions from one set of data. Anyone who would do so is either very shallow, stupid, or driven by an agenda. A case in point is a Forbes blogger who used the study to take a pot shot at litigation against landlords. To wit, mold is good for us, so dismiss all the suits.”
Last August, Larry wrote: “We harp on the subject of mold because it is a potent allergen and because it is frequently overlooked in taking medical history…. mold can afflict brand new homes as well as old ones because of poor construction. What makes this problem more vexing is that the sensory clues for mold are both visual and olfactory. You can see water damage and you can smell mold.”
The plaintiffs in the cases covered by the WSJ were bolstered by testimony from Dr. Eckardt Johanning, from the medical school at SUNY Albany who specializes in Environmental and Occupational Medicine, and is the top guy in molds. (He is also a friend of Dr. Ehrlich’s whom we have been pestering for more than a year to do something for us–maybe now he’ll give in). Dr. Johanning testified that to “a reasonable degree of medical certainty [the patients’ problems were due to her exposure to] atypical mold exposure in her apartment, after ruling out other possible causes for her condition.”
Much as landlords might wish to believe it, mold is a serious problem. It is not a simply a matter of nasty smells that don’t go away, although that is bad enough; even non-allergic people shouldn’t have to wonder who cut the blue cheese 24 hours a day.