12/05/2001

The New Asbestos?

Preventive strategies for mold litigation

 

IAQ Economics

U.S. companies could save as much as $58 billion annually by preventing sick-building illnesses and an additional $200 billion in worker performance improvements by creating offices with better indoor air, according to researchers William J. Fisk and Arthur H. Rosenfeld, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Berkeley, CA. The researchers also found that the financial benefits of improving IAQ can be eight to 17 times larger than the costs of making those improvements.

Their estimates are derived from studies, which establish a link between building-related causes and the illnesses in question, but they do not have data on the percentage of these costs paid by the insurance industry, and the estimated benefits covering all building sectors (LBNL study, Allen Chen and Edward Vine, 1998). One insurance carrier reportedly paid out more than $24 million between 1989 and 1993 for IAQ illness claims. It's obvious that the escalating insurance costs provide further evidence that better IAQ is an issue in everyone's best interests.

- S. Richard Fedrizzi, Principal, Global Environment and Technology Foundation and Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, and president, Green-Think, Syracuse, NY.

By Susan M. Hickman

Mold is not new. What is new is the increasing focus on mold, its potential health effects, and the costs of clean up and litigation. Claims are made in two categories: personal injury and property damage. Personal injury claims can arise from occupants as general liability claims or, if the occupant is an employee of the building owner, as a worker's compensation claim. These claims seek monetary damages for illnesses alleged to be caused by mold contamination.

One component of the damages often sought is money for "medical monitoring." This is a fund of money to pay for lifelong testing and monitoring of the claimants' health to ensure they do not develop medical problems or that those problems do not go undiagnosed or untreated.

Property damage claims arise when a building contaminated by mold has to be remediated. Remediation in this context can range from relatively minor and inexpensive clean up to full containment clean-up and even removal of much or all of a building's interior. Disputes may arise between building owners and their insurance carriers. Some of the issues that must be resolved are:

• Is there insurance coverage, and to what extent is the remediation cost and cost to rebuild or replace removed materials?
• Is there another entity responsible for causing the mold contamination? All potentially responsible parties are litigation targets.

In either context, personal injury or property damage, the inquiry will center on two questions of causation. First, what caused the mold contamination; and second, did the mold contamination cause the specific illnesses and/or property damages claimed? Mold-related litigation involves complex issues relating to a building's design, construction, operations, and maintenance. The legal, technical, and scientific issues are fact-intensive and drive the cost of this type of litigation extraordinarily high.

A mechanical engineer may be required if the ventilation system is contaminated with mold, or is otherwise implicated in contributing to or causing the mold problems. Medical expertise may be required, depending on the range of symptoms and number of individuals experiencing symptoms. In any situation involving significant mold contamination, competent legal counsel should coordinate an overall strategy for communications, management, and documentation.

Recent verdicts, such as the $32 million awarded to the Ballare family in Texas, have only fueled the increasing public concern and promoted more litigation. Mold may be "the next asbestos" in terms of the costs of remediation and litigation. Unlike asbestos, however, there are no general regulations that govern mold exposure. This makes it even more imperative that developers, owners, and facilities managers have plans and procedures in place to address potential mold problems before litigation arises.

Susan M. Hickman, a partner with the Chicago office of the national law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, concentrates her practice in the area of indoor air quality, with a current emphasis on mold-related issues.

 


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Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.

 

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.

 

Replace core drilling with Connectrac In-Carpet and On-Floor Wireways, the proven connectivity solution in open interior spaces of all kinds. These elegant low-profile wireways are great for AV / telecom connectivity wherever it’s needed.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.


 
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