16 Nov How to Prove Harm from Toxic Mold Exposure
Earlier this year, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the case of Terry v. Caputo. The plaintiff fought to prove that his ongoing illnesses were caused by the toxic mold in his workplace. When the court reversed the case, they cited that the plaintiff’s medical expert was not speaking to the specific ailments of the plaintiff. An expert witness must present both general and specific causation. The court will evaluate the scientific methodology’s reliability, not the result, and the relevance to the specific case.
So, if you think you have an illness due to toxic mold exposure, what does this mean for you? What will you need to do to prove harm?
Mold in the Workplace
OSHA reports that mold thrives with “water damage, high humidity, or dampness.” The many thousands of molds can have varied effects on your health. OSHA estimates that anywhere from 50 to 100 of the most common indoor molds cause health problems. Over long periods of exposure, some of these molds can even cause brain damage.
If you discover mold in your workplace, follow these steps:
- Take Photos: Capture the environment of the mold. Is there a leak or water damage nearby? Is there a lot of moisture, like condensation or humidity? Take close-ups of the mold, as well.
- Send an Email: Alert your manager or landlord via email to establish traceable proof of your immediate action. Include when and where you first saw it. Describe the mold, including its color and size. Detail the environment in which the mold appears. Attach any photos. Verbally tell your manager after sending the email for confirmation.
- Follow Up: Follow up with your manager within a day for an update. If the individual has not taken action, inform HR or another manager of the mold by email and phone calls. If your company continues to take no action, contact your local OSHA.
- Ask for Proof of Action: Once the company takes action, request to see proof, in receipts and in the location of the mold. Find out what type of mold it was. Suggest a plan of preventative action be implemented in the future. OSHA provides guidelines here for preventing mold in the workplace.
- Go to the Doctor: If you haven’t run into symptoms yet, you still should visit your family doctor for a check-up, particularly if you have a weak immune system, you’re pregnant or have lung-related concerns. Show the doctor any pertinent information regarding the mold.
- Print Records: In addition to keeping all documentation of your e-correspondence, print records of correspondence, medical visits and medications. Collect this evidence for a potential court defense.
Mold in the Home
If you discover mold in a home that you rent, follow the steps above in reporting to your landlord. If you own your home, call a mold removal specialist. Ask removal specialists to identify the mold and how long they think it may have been there. If they can’t tell after looking at it, they may be able to send it to a lab. This is important if you bought your house from someone else or have had tenants in your building.
Your landlord may make one of two agreements with you:
- You pay for the removal and deduct it from your rent (“implied warranty of habitability”)
- You stop paying rent until the landlord does something with your uninhabitable place (called “rent withholding”).
Operating under the second option brings some risk.
If you own your own home, take immediate action by calling professionals or removing the mold yourself. Ensure all moisture is dried, and reduce humidity in your home, especially in the problem area, by using de-humidifiers, increasing ventilation and/or adding insulation. For cleaning up mold yourself, see the EPA’s mold cleanup guidelines.
You Could Possibly Sue for Harm
Medical issues from toxic mold exposure typically can show up as allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and asthma. Other cases of ongoing exposure to black mold have caused blackouts, crippling headaches, and brain damage.
If you’ve been diagnosed with any medical issue as a result of toxic mold exposure, you may be able to successfully sue your employer, landlord, previous owners or previous tenants. To note, your landlord has no legal obligation to tell you if there is mold in a building when you move in. That makes a legal argument harder if you want to sue your landlord.
If you have any questions for legal advice or clarifications on toxic mold, contact a lawyer.