A family excitedly moves into a new home, but soon, everyone seems to fall ill with the same collection of strange symptoms. A previously healthy worker assigned to move boxes in a warehouse basement begins suffering from severe asthma that he’s never had before. A child comes home from school every day looking increasingly pale and out of breath, complaining she’s “allergic” to her classroom. Doctors, co-workers, and parents offer generic explanations or dismiss the symptoms outright: “You’re passing a virus around.” “You’re not young anymore.” “You just don’t like your teacher.”
Then, one day a maintenance worker uncovers a forest of black mold growing behind a wall in the bathroom, on an unlighted ceiling in the warehouse basement, or beneath carpeting right below students’ feet: it’s been making everyone sick. Not only that, a building inspector later concludes the mold has rotted the home, warehouse, or school building from the inside out, putting them at serious risk of structural collapse.
At The Levin Firm, we take illness and property damage from toxic mold (often called “black mold”) seriously. We’ve seen the harm it causes, and we commit our time and resources to seek compensation for clients who have suffered its ill-effects. If you or a loved one has suffered illness or injury due to mold exposure, you may be entitled to compensation. Call us today at (215) 825-5183 or contact us online to learn more.
For years, people complaining about the effects of living or working in damp, mold-filled environments weren’t taken seriously. Sure, there was a little mold growing here or there, and things smelled a little funny, but what was the big deal? It’s not like the building was as dangerous as one filled with asbestos or lead paint dust, right?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the days of ignoring the risks of mold-related injuries and illness are over. Mold exposure represents a major public health issue worldwide. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report finding evidence of a link between mold exposure and severe respiratory illnesses. A later review of research conducted by the World Health Organization reached the same conclusion, and called attention to findings that mold exposure appears to lead to an increase in the chances of children developing and dying from asthma. The CDC notes that other severe and life-threatening conditions, such as pulmonary hemorrhaging in infants and neurological symptoms in adults, may also be linked to mold exposure, and are the subject of ongoing research.
In a review of more recent research, the National Capital Poison Center noted evidence of mold exposure causing not only asthma, but also respiratory infections and long-term chronic conditions such as “farmer’s lung.” These conditions can result from exposure to “mycotoxins,” a class of naturally-occurring toxins produced by molds that grow on crops and foodstuffs. Certain mycotoxins have been linked to forms of cancer, liver, and kidney damage, among other deadly effects. Humans may be exposed to mycotoxins by working in or around places where crops, nuts, and grains (including coffee beans and peanuts) are stored, or by consuming those products when they are not fresh or have been stored improperly.
Mold doesn’t just cause illness. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, mold also literally eats away at building materials, especially the wood and wood-based products that constitute the floors, roofs, wall studs, and support beams of most American homes. A building’s mold problem may not just be a danger to the health of those inside: it may also cause integral parts of the structure to collapse.
For victims of mold exposure, the signs and symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from other, more common ailments. Instead, the very first signals of mold exposure tend to be environmental. Mold needs dampness to grow, so the first sign of a potential exposure is often a change in living, working, or life routine that involves spending time in a noticeably damp or humid setting. According to the CDC, places that tend to have high concentrations of mold include:
This is not, however, a complete list. Any structure can host dangerous concentrations of mold if it is (or has been) damp.
Dangerous concentrations of mold also typically have a strong, musty smell, although other odors can mask it. People often pass off moldy smells as the scent of an “old building” or a “stuffy basement” (which is often accurate, but not necessarily a reason to feel safe). Similarly, the smell of dangerous mycotoxins (the toxins emitted by mold that can cause cancer) may be strong but still difficult to distinguish from the scent of the foodstuffs on which they often grow, such as coffee beans or grains. Spending time working in storage areas for these food items, however, may also be an early signal of potentially hazardous mold or mold-related exposure.
Symptoms of mold-related illness may arise quickly, or take some time to appear after a person begins spending time in a mold-friendly environment. Some people have severe allergies to mold, and feel the exposure immediately in the form of hay fever-like symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, hives, difficulty breathing). Likewise, people with an existing respiratory condition like asthma may feel the effects of a moldy environment soon after entering it by suffering an acute asthma attack, or feeling the immediate need for a rescue inhaler.
Healthy, allergy-free people, however, may not realize the extent or danger of their mold exposure for some time. For these victims, symptoms can develop over weeks, months, or years. These may begin with unfamiliar feelings of being out of breath, or the appearance of an increasingly persistent cough. Some mold victims report growing fatigue, headaches, and confusion. Finally, those victims exposed to dangerous mycotoxins may, over time, experience nausea, gastrointestinal issues, and symptoms consistent with liver or kidney disease, depending on the severity of the exposure and the type of mycotoxin involved.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey do not currently have laws or regulations requiring mold remediation, or set acceptable levels for safe amounts of mold in an indoor environment. The lack of specific laws, however, does not excuse building sellers, owners, landlords, and others from maintaining a safe environment for buyers, residents, visitors, and employees. When indoor or ambient mold reaches dangerous levels and harms people, those responsible for keeping people and premises safe may face legal liability to mold exposure victims.
For example, a large healthcare provider in Pittsburgh recently faced liability after heavy mold growth on hospital linens appeared to cause the deaths of five patients at two of its hospitals. The health system settled wrongful death lawsuits by the families of at least two of those victims for $1.35 million each. Mold discoveries have also delayed school openings in schools in New Jersey, and have caused parents in the Philadelphia area to worry about their children’s health and safety. School districts could risk liability if they do not address mold problems. In 2016, a teacher from Milburn, New Jersey, won a $1.8 million judgment against the school district where she worked after mold in her classroom caused her to suffer respiratory illness.
In Pennsylvania, home sellers also have a legal obligation to disclose potentially dangerous conditions in a home. When sellers fail to disclose a potentially dangerous concentration of mold, such as in a case reported in 2016 about a sale in Horsham, Pennsylvania, the buyers may have the right to seek compensation.
Though no outcome of any lawsuit can be guaranteed, victims who have fallen ill or been injured due to mold exposure may be entitled to compensation for the harm suffered. The damages potentially recoverable for mold exposure-related injuries, illness, or wrongful death, can include:
In addition, victims of mold exposure may be entitled to seek punitive damages when the party responsible for failing to keep the victim safe from mold exposure acted in an outrageous or reckless manner. Punitive damages aim to teach the wrongdoer a lesson, and to prevent injuries to others resulting from the same conduct in the future.
Victims of mold exposure illness and injury often doubt themselves and their symptoms. They tell themselves there are so many potential causes of hay fever symptoms, or shortness of breath, or a persistent cough, it’s impossible to say whether any particular person or condition is to blame.
That’s an understandable belief, but it’s not necessarily true. It is, in fact, possible to pinpoint mold as the cause or one of the causes of an onset of previously unusual symptoms, if you know where to turn.
This is why it can be important to call an attorney with experience representing clients in mold exposure cases as soon as you think you may be experiencing a mold-related illness or injury. A knowledgeable attorney can help you connect with medical professionals specializing in diagnosing and treating mold exposures, and in evaluating and eliminating other potential causes of your ailments.
An attorney with the right kind of know-how can also tap into a network of researchers and investigators who can get to the bottom of whether there is dangerous mold thriving in places where you spend your time. In some cases, that level of investigation won’t even be necessary. If someone in your home, work, or your child’s school discovers and reports a significant concentration of mold, and you’ve been experiencing symptoms like the ones above, contact an attorney right away.
Because of the uncertainty that often surrounds the onset of symptoms of a mold exposure illness, establishing the liability of someone who failed to mitigate mold can be time-consuming and complicated. Potentially liable parties and their insurers tend to point the finger at each other or to blame the mold exposure victim, rather than assume responsibility for a mold-related illness or injury.
An attorney with a track record of success in mold exposure cases like The Levin Firm will not fall for these tactics. The attorney will protect you from insurers’ attempts to convince you to accept lowball settlements, or to sign waivers of liability. While you recover from the effects of your mold exposure, your attorney will do their utmost to recover every penny of compensation you have a right to receive.
Because mold-exposure cases take time and resources to pursue, The Levin Firm may agree to represent a mold-exposure client on a “contingent fee” basis in which the firm recovers its fees only out of any settlement or judgment in the client’s favor. If you have questions about how much working with an experienced mold-exposure attorney will cost, don’t hesitate to ask us about a fee arrangement that can work for you.
Nothing is scarier than knowing something is making you and your family sick, and not being able to figure out what it is. The anxiety caused by an unseen danger like toxic mold can feel overwhelming. At The Levin Firm, we understand how upsetting it is to fall ill from a mold exposure and not know where to turn. Fortunately, our compassionate, determined team of experienced mold-exposure lawyers is here to help.
If you or a loved one have been exposed to mold or mycotoxins you suspect have made you sick, or if you’ve discovered a previously-undisclosed mold condition in your home that makes you feel unsafe, you may be entitled to significant compensation. Call the trusted attorneys at The Levin Firm today at (215) 825-5183, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
Toxic mold is a real problem in the Philadelphia area. At The Levin Firm, we fight to ensure our clients who have been sickened or injured by toxic mold exposure get the justice and compensation they deserve.
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