A moldy matter proves toxic to a North Carolina real estate firm.
It happened in Berkeley County, North Carolina, in August of 2008. Prudential Carolina Real Estate was held liable because one of the firm’s agents didn’t disclose that certain properties she represented had toxic mold issues. The verdict wasn’t huge, just $50,000 in actual damages and an additional $75,000 tacked on to the liability for punitive damages. But the residential property that the agent was selling did indeed have mold.
The negligence on the part of the Prudential agent involved mold reports which were never provided to a couple who were buyers. Although the verdict went against the real estate agent, the original lawsuit had asked for $1.5 million in damages.
The property in question was a single storefront (a house and store) valued at $110,000. Although it became a bike shop, the premises were discovered to harbor black mold. The issue became whether the property had been purchased “as is” with the Prudential saleswoman asserting that the mold’s presence had already been known by the plaintiffs, or whether the black mold had never been disclosed. One plaintiff remarked, “She knew about the mold problem and didn’t tell us.”
Because of the proliferating mold, the plaintiffs were forced to abandon the storefront. Afterwards, they were still under contract to pay the property’s mortgage.
Complicating the first case immeasurably had been the fact that the plaintiffs had been told originally about the toxic black mold by a previous occupant of the storefront, so in essence, they had known about the mold, and still purchased the property at a reduced rate. The verdict was a form of litigated compromise perhaps reflective of murky North Carolina statutes regarding mold more than anything else.
A second Berkeley County house had also been found pregnant with mold a month earlier, in July 2008. In that instance, an entire family was victimized including a 3-year-old child. It had been alleged in that case that a negligent builder was to blame for causing the family to sicken with respiratory symptoms of an alarming nature, their health compromised. That mold intrusion had been caused by substandard construction leading to water infiltration. Yet in that case, a judge had ruled in favor of the builder, determining that the water might have pooled and been present in the house even if the construction had been “up to code.”
Alexandra Reed writes for Connecticut personal injury law firm, Stratton Faxon.
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