Adventures in Drywall
What's Worse: Lawyers Or Mold?
While many parts of the country were hit by drought and were baked into a hard-pack boiler plate this past summer, the east coast was saturated with long-needed precipitation. But too much of a good thing has a whole other set of issues. Crops rotted in the fields and people who had never had water in their basements had to invest in a sump pump. Another unpleasant byproduct of all this damp and dreary weather is mold. The wall beneath a dripping air conditioner, the inside corners of your home, the edges of window jambs, any place there is any moisture will turn black. It's a pain but for decades people have dealt with it by wiping the affected areas with a bleach solution and the mold or mildew (as older generations referred to it) has disappeared. Who knew we were all being poisoned to death by this insidious creeping monster?
Thank God for Erin Brokovich and the trial lawyers of this great country. They once again saved us from a horrible fate.
Erin's moldI was amused by a TV program I viewed last year where the tan, buff and blow-dried Erin looked confidently into the camera and stated matter-of-factly mold was responsible for every medical malady known to man plus a few she hadn't made up yet. It seems her clients were now unable to work or have any kind of a meaningful life again, all because of what? You guessed it: mold. Don't get me wrong, I admire what Erin did for all those families poisoned by toxic chemicals in California. I also will admit that there are persons who are allergic to certain types of mold.
However, much like I will never believe the old lady who got burned by Mickey D's coffee didn't know it was supposed to be hot, there is a huge difference between sneezing and short-term memory loss. You're reaching Erin.
One has to wonder what came first, Erin or the trial lawyers. Did they use her to start the panic, or did they happen to see her on TV spouting off about her cause dujour. I imagine the deep asbestos pockets must be getting dangerously close to having nothing but lint left in them. How will the rank and file TLA be able to afford their Porsche payments without a cause to rally around?
Enter: mold. If we could be convinced that mold was responsible for everything from sexual dysfunction to post traumatic stress disorder, enter the next class action suit.
Think I'm paranoid? Well, fiction became fact for this adventurer this past week. My kids' school was closed down one week before they were to go back to school. Guess why: toxic mold! While the custodians were cleaning in preparation for the start of the new school year they found mold on a few lower door surfaces and in a few carpets. Remember, most schools stand vacant and unventilated during most of the summer vacation. Add to this the fact this school lies near a stream and there was much more precipitation than usual-there is going to be mold. Our custodians were due-diligent in their immediate notification of the appropriate officials. An immediate decision was made to close down the school for mold remediation. As a concerned parent, I attended the meeting held to get information on the plans for cleanup. There was an "expert" in attendance to answer any and all questions. There we were informed the school would be closed for hopefully only a month, at a cost starting at close to $300,000. The following are examples of my concern:
Question: What type of mold was found to be present in the school? Is it the toxic black variety?
Answer: We aren't sure at this time what specific types are involved, except we are fairly confident black mold is not involved.
Question: How much mold was found and how much needs to be there to be unsafe?
Answer: We don't have specific numbers at this time.
Question: What type of chemicals will be used to clean up the mold? Since there is such a high cost involved in the cleanup, will you just be using bleach or will expensive chemicals be used? And if so, are these chemicals toxic?
Answer: Several different cleaners will be used. I can't go into specifics.
Question: Will the cost of the cleanup be on target?
Answer: The figure is just for the mold found so far. Any additional cleaning will be contracted for $1 per square foot. In addition, every book in the school will have to be checked for toxic mold also.
Are you following this? Taxpayers are going to be footing the bill for a cleanup that perhaps wasn't even needed. I guarantee the bill will not be for $300,000. Why? Because our school board is terrified-God forbid-that a child will come home and sneeze more than once, the parents will retain a lawyer who will be more than happy to try and prove to a jury this child will never be able to be a productive member of society now because of dangerous levels of toxicity infecting this poor child. I'm sure the school board will err on the side of safety and spend what ever it takes to keep that from happening.
Within the last year, we have had five schools close down because of mold. This is just one small area on the map. I'm sure this is going on in other places of the country, also. At what expense, no one will ever know.
Think I'm crazy? Check out the following found on a random "toxic mold" search of the Web:
Toxic mold in the newsJune 12, 2003
"Toxic mold finding dogs" People are willing to shell out $12,500 for a specially trained dog that can sniff out fungal problems like toxic mold. The newest introduction to finding toxic mold are dog graduates of the Florida Canine Academy, with 1,000 hours of training to be able to sniff out toxic mold and other funguses. Toxic mold lawsuits have continued to prove problematic across the nation.
"Mold is a tenacious, unwelcome houseguest. It climbs up bathroom walls, invades carpet and infests drywall.
"The EIFS they had put on their home would eventually trap water deep inside their walls, which led to rotting wood and a loss of structural integrity of the home. That was bad, but worse yet was the hidden growth of a deadly poison, tachybotrys mold, so dangerous that it almost cost the Brunsons the life of their daughter Iris ..."
"The fiberglass insulation people like to say that mold does not grow on their product, which is a fairly true statement, however, it grows on the organic debris that become trapped in their products. Mold also grows on things such as wood, fabric, leather, gypsum, fiberboard, drywall, stucco, and many insulation fibrous materials."
Still think your boy's gone off the deep end? Peruse the following: Look up toxic mold on the Internet and you're bound to find testing services offering their expertise, remediation companies looking for a clean-up job and personal injury lawyers scrambling for a lawsuit.
"They have a saying, ‘Mold is gold',"' says Tom Hagerty, spokesman for State Farm in Florida, which has the largest share of the homeowners insurance market in the state.
Hagerty said the number of toxic mold claims to his company has jumped from 37 in 2000 to more than 950 in 2002. Before 2000, there weren't enough claims to track.
The company asked the Office of Insurance Regulation to allow it to drop mold coverage on homeowners' insurance policies and offer it separately. That was denied, but last week, administrative law judge William Cave sided with the company.
You guys think you have trouble getting insurance now? Just wait till this thing gets rolling. If you have the word "Drywall", "EIFS," or "Insulation" attached to your business get ready for another huge jump in premiums, if you can get coverage at all. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the pool.
And remember: life's way too dangerous not to have thousands of lawyers looking out for you.