Construction Defects Lead to Mold Lawsuit in Heron Bay Community


CORAL SPRINGS, June 7, 2016 – Today, a lawsuit was filed in Broward County Circuit Court against WCI Communities by mold attorney Scott Gelfand of Scott N. Gelfand, P.A. The suit was filed on behalf of Angela Mesa-Taylor and her children who endured months of exposure to mold found in their newly-built home in the Heron Bay community in Parkland caused by alleged design and construction defects by WCI and its subcontractors.

“My office has been approached by dozens of homeowners in newly-constructed Heron Bay homes complaining of similar design and construction defects,” stated Mr. Gelfand. “WCI is well-aware of these complaints and we expect other lawsuits to follow” he said.

Mr. Gelfand stated: “What makes the Taylors’ case particularly egregious is the health problems they unwittingly suffered due to the design and construction of the home.”

The suit alleges that: “As a result of the Defendants’ negligence and violation of the Florida Building Code, not only were the [Taylors] subjected to living in mold-infested and, upon information and belief, mite-infested conditions, but the [Taylors] have suffered severe adverse health consequences including, but not limited to: asthma, chronic cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, recurrent sinusitis, sinus pain and pressure, headaches, eczema, upper respiratory infections, including flu-like symptoms and fever, nasal polyps, depression and/or anxiety, chronic fatigue, and sleep deprivation.”

The suit alleges the following defects: “(1) the duct distribution systems located in the attic were constructed and sealed improperly leading to significant leakage of conditioned air out of the supply ductwork into the attic and resulting in negative pressures within the Residence; (2) the duct distribution systems located in the attic were constructed improperly in that they were in contact with the attic insulation causing condensation and moisture; (3) no clear return paths for HVAC system flow were provided; (4) the attic ceiling interface was negligently constructed in that shafts, chaseways, and/or stem walls were uncapped or unsealed; and (5) return platforms and return enclosures in HVAC closets were unsealed.

The suit alleges that as a result: (1) elevated moisture was found in the master bath closet, master closet, closet 1, and hall bathroom; (2) the humidity readings in the Residence were at 62%, in excess of the recommended humidity range to control mold growth; (3) air sampling of main living spaces demonstrated elevated airborne mold levels of Aspergillus/Penicillium genera in the kitchen, master bath, and hallway; (4) surface sampling of suspect mold in the bathroom demonstrated the presence of elevated Aspergillus/Penicillium and Cladosporium genera; and (5) visible mold was observed on the ceiling and certain walls of the master bathroom, the ceiling and all walls of the half bathroom, and the ceiling and all walls of the spare closet.

The suit alleges that WCI conceded that there was a “humidity situation in [the] home” resulting from “negative pressure” and “condensation” in the attic, and WCI admitted that the residence required the following repairs to eliminate the preceding defects: (a) caulking the top of door casings throughout the Residence; (b) raising of HVAC ductwork to cease contact between the ductwork and insulation; and (c) sealing exhaust fans in the attic.

The suit alleges that: cold air leaking out of the ductwork chilled ductwork surfaces below the dewpoint temperature of attic air resulting in condensation and associated mold. The negative air pressures resulted in the induced infiltration of hot humid air deep into the residence. The ingress of hot, humid air, water and moisture caused by the preceding conduct led to mold growth and/or dust mite proliferation in interstitial wall cavities, on the paper coverings of gypsum wall board and, upon information and belief, paper-facing of vapor barriers, on baseboards, upon portions of gypsum wall board and wood framing, and additionally in other locations within the residence. As time wore on, the growing mold began to sporulate and emit spores which, in turn, traversed into the ambient air within the Residence contaminating the Plaintiff’s furniture, clothing and possessions and permeating the air that they breathed.

Mr. Gelfand stated that industrial hygiene experts have already isolated and identified the various species of mold found in the house.

He further points out that the public is under a troubling misconception about “toxic mold.” Recent studies show that the real danger from mold is not the “toxic mold” depicted in the media in recent years but, rather, allergies resulting from mold which are far more prevalent and have a far greater impact on the health and pocketbooks of South Floridians.

The conclusion of a recent American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology study was that mold allergy was a greater health concern than toxic mold. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged in August, 2005 that more than half of the United States population is sensitive to allergens, while a 2007 EPA-sponsored study determined that mold is one of the most prevalent, if not the most prevent, indoor allergen, present in approximately 47% of U.S. homes.

These facts, among others, led the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conclude in a September, 2008 report to Senator Edward M. Kennedy that “scientific and medical research is now suggesting that mold poses a widespread and . . . serious health threat” and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to conclude in June, 2006 that mold can cause “adverse health effects . . . regardless of the type of mold or the extent of contamination.” In March, 2008, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a warning to physicians who may not be fully-versed in the health risks associated with mold exposure that “[e]xposure to significant levels of indoor mold can cause acute or chronic dysfunction or injury to all organ systems including the respiratory, neurological, cardiovascular, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, immune . . . and hematological systems.”

To quantify the extent and financial impact of a mere fraction of the overall health risks associated with mold, a 2007 EPA-sponsored study found that exposure to mold raises the risk of asthma or other allergic respiratory disease by up to 50% and that 4.6 million out of the 21.8 million reported asthma cases in the U.S. have been attributed to mold, at an annual cost of $3.5 billion per year.

Lest the public be inclined to breathe a sigh of relief over the toxic effects of mold, brand new research indicates that toxic mold is even more prevalent than scientists initially thought. Over the last few years, scientists came to believe that just because mold was present in an indoor environment, that did not necessarily mean that mold toxins were present as well. However, a December, 2008 Swedish study found that mold toxins known as mycotoxins are, in fact, produced virtually everywhere mold develops indoors.

And allergies and toxins are not the only reason to be concerned about mold. The renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota has determined that in more than 95% of the 37 million patients suffering from chronic sinus disease in the U.S., an immune system reaction caused by inhaling mold is the primary culprit.

For all these reasons, Mr. Gelfand warns that “this case is all too typical in the hot, humid climate we have here in South Florida.” He went on to state “All Florida homeowners and business owners should be forewarned not to take mold too lightly.”

Related: How to handle a mold law case 

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