McCall v. Norman (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-16-0925, 18 pp.) (Sam Ervin IV, J.) Appealed from Transylvania County District Court (Athena Brooks, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.
Holding: The defendant-tenants made several oral complaints about mold to the plaintiff-landlords in July 2008; the landlords did not respond until the tenants made a written complaint in August 2008. The landlords inspected the rental home and claimed to see no evidence of mold. Although the tenants started sleeping elsewhere, they did not completely vacate the home until October. Contrary to the landlords’ argument, they had a reasonable opportunity to remediate the mold infestation.
We affirm judgment for the tenants.
The landlords also complain about the lack of expert testimony. Expert opinion testimony is not always required to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Based on the tenants’ testimony, the trial court found that, after the landlords had the home power-washed in the spring of 2008, moisture and mold appeared inside the home and the tenants’ children began to experience allergic reactions to mold. Photographs of the mold damage to the tenants’ personal property were also admitted into evidence.
Moreover, the tenants hired an inspector, who found mold in the rental home. He was qualified as an expert in “home inspections, more specifically water penetration and damage….” During the inspector’s testimony, photographs depicting negative grading, efflorescence (indicative of water seeping through the home’s foundation), and the presence of wood-destroying fungi inside the home were introduced into evidence.
Thus, the record contains not only expert testimony, but also extensive evidence of mold in the rental home, the reason the infestation occurred, and the effect of the mold infestation on the tenants and their property. In addition, given the circumstances, a lay person could properly form an opinion that excessive moisture entering the home caused the mold infestation which, in turn rendered the home uninhabitable and damaged the tenants’ personal property.