A dispute stemming from a toxic mold problem allegedly caused by airflow issues in a newly constructed home has resulted in a $450,000 global settlement, the homeowners’ attorneys report.
Ed Gaskins and Katie King of Everett Gaskins Hancock Raleigh in report that the contractors designed their clients’ home just as they wanted it, including a commercial grade vent hood in the kitchen. But King said that the powerful exhaust appliance resulted in “negative air balance” in the home drawing humid, unconditioned air into the ventilation system and leaving excessive moisture which caused mold growth.
“Every time the HVAC system ran, it was circulating this black mold growth throughout the home,” King said. “What should have happened was that the HVAC subcontractors supervised by the builder should have ensured that the home was properly balanced.”
The couple that owned the home alleged that within months of moving in, the wife began exhibiting an array of cognitive and physical symptoms that sent her to numerous specialists. After more than three years, and what King said was a “long medical journey,” tests revealed that she had elevated levels of mycotoxin, which is produced by mold.
King said that, although the homeowners selected the hood, the subcontractor should have installed a “makeup” air system to rebalance the home, and there was no allegation that the hood itself malfunctioned in any way.
Many details of the case, including the identities of the parties and the defense counsel, were withheld pursuant to a confidentiality agreement, but King said much of the defense’s arguments in the case focused on causation rather than damages, as her client eventually tested positive for Lyme disease.
“The defense was not so much that there was no mold, but that mold did not cause her condition and her symptoms,” she said.
King said there was also dispute over the cost of some remediation measures at the house. The HVAC subcontractor ultimately contributed $215,000 to the settlement, with the builder giving another $140,000. The remaining $95,000 came from the heating and cooling system’s maintenance company.
SETTLEMENT REPORT – CONSTRUCTION DEFECT
Injuries alleged: Property damage and permanent and severe neurological damage
Case name: Confidential
Date of settlement: November 2021
Most helpful experts: Bob Herrick of Cary (environmental engineering) and Frank Tyndall of Wake Forest (mechanical engineering)
Attorneys for plaintiff: Ed Gaskins and Katie King of Everett Gaskins Hancock Raleigh
Attorneys for defendant: Confidential