Our Tamarac premises liability attorneys were interested to see in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Sept. 27 that the Catholic Church is a defendant in a new lawsuit over toxic mold. A group of residents from St. Andrews Towers in Coral Springs, owned by the Archdiocese of Miami, are suing the archdiocese, the organization that runs the towers and Catholic Health Services for allegedly covering up the mold problem at the five-story seniors’ complex. Residents say the mold makes the air inside the apartments unhealthy, and that the archdiocese knew about the problem but concealed it from residents, even painting over some mold to hide it.
The attorney in the case had sued St. Andrews over the same problem in 2002, a suit that ended in a confidential settlement. Now he alleges that the complex did not take serious steps to fix the mold problem, instead recruiting people to live in the apartments despite the compromised air quality. Spokespeople for the defendants strongly dispute that claim, saying there’s no evidence for any mold problems and that the plaintiffs have never tested for mold. However, the plaintiffs’ attorney said he had personally seen the mold in at least 20 apartments at the complex. Resident Rose Barros said she had complained about mold a few months ago and workers had torn out the offending wall, only to have the same problem on the new wall.
As a Miramar premises liability lawyer, I know mold could be an especially serious problem for senior citizens. Any mold on the walls and ceilings of a home may be ugly, but there are serious health problems associated with certain mold and fungi, particularly a variety called black mold. Mold spores can trigger respiratory problems and allergies in healthy people, but in sensitive people, it can trigger serious respiratory distress, asthma attacks, constant low-grade cold and flu symptoms and more. Among those most likely to be affected are the elderly, who spend more time indoors and tend to have existing health problems. If it’s true that St. Andrews knew about a mold problem and concealed it from residents, it may be judged legally responsible for all of the health problems caused by its inaction and deceit -- which could be far more expensive than simply fixing the problem.