Molds are naturally occurring organisms that are present almost everywhere. While molds need both moisture and nutrients to grow, moisture is the primary factor that promotes indoor mold growth. Therefore, whenever there is a water leak in a home or residential building, there is the potential for a mold-related legal claim.
Mold-related claims have grown exponentially in recent years. In Texas, for example, the number of mold-related claims increased by more than 1,300 percent between the beginning of 2000 and the end of 2001, and, during the period 2000 to 2003, mold-related claims cost Texas insurance companies approximately $4 billion.
Texas, however, is not alone. Mold-related claims have proliferated throughout the United States. According to the Insurance Information Institute, there are more than 10,000 mold-related lawsuits currently pending in state courts across the country. In New York, mold-related claims tripled in 2002, and by 2003, New York ranked fourth nationwide in the number of mold-related claims, behind California, Texas and Florida.
The “Mold Rush” Begins
A major contributing factor to the explosion of mold-related litigation was preliminary data in studies conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1994 and 1997. The research indicated an association between exposure to household fungi and the development of acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage (AIPH) in infants living in the Cleveland area. However, the CDC subsequently withdrew the findings when it admitted that evidence was not of sufficient quality. But by then, it was too late; the “mold rush” was underway.
In June 2001, a Texas jury awarded a verdict for over $32 million. The award did not include damages for personal injuries and was later reduced on appeal to $4 million, but the case was widely publicized. It was also reported that there were multimillion-dollar mold claims by celebrities such as Ed McMahon (in California), Erin Brockovich (in California), Bianca Jagger (in New York City) and Michael Jordan (in Washington, D.C.). Suddenly, molds—which have played an important role in sustaining plant and animal life for hundreds of millions of years by breaking down organic matter—were deemed “toxic” and referred to as “the silent killer” by the media and those seeking to profit by sensationalizing the issue.