In one of the nation’s biggest personal injury verdicts related to mold, a Sacramento jury has awarded a local family more than $2.7 million after finding their former landlord guilty of negligence stemming from mold in their apartment.
According to a report in The Sacramento Bee, the defendants–two local individual investors and the company that managed the property–vowed to appeal within the allotted 70-day period.
The plaintiffs–Darren and Marcie Mazza, and their son Bryce–testified that they suffered from a variety of serious health problems over nearly three years because of mold in their rental unit at the Partridge Pointe Apartments in Sacramento.
The family reported the complex’s ownership and management had ignored their repeated complaints regarding water intrusion and mold and had failed to properly maintain and repair their unit.
The jury was unanimous in finding the defendants–Sacramento-based investors Raymond Schurtz and Janak Mehtani and Sacramento-based Westcal Management–liable on each of five claims, including that of negligence. The jury also awarded the exact damages sought, totaling just over $2.7 million.
Miller said the defense tried to argue that the Mazzas’ reported health problems stemmed from allergies to their three cats.
Rick Rodgers, the defendants’ Sacramento attorney, said his clients will be “filing standard post-trial motions seeking relief and, assuming those are not successful, we would go forward with a full appeal.”
Jim Lofgren, executive director for the Rental Housing Association of Sacramento Valley, commented that the verdict will spur more mold-related personal-injury cases and cause more insurance companies to exclude mold-related claims from their coverage for rental property. The problem, Lofgren said, is that landlords and management companies will be more susceptible to large claims and investors will shy away from rental property, all of which puts greater pressure on rents.
The Mazzas’ reported symptoms included constipation, asthma, diarrhea, and severe headaches. Marcie Mazza said those problems caused her husband, an emergency medical technician, to miss 26 days of work and her son to miss 39 days of school.
But Miller, who specializes in mold cases, said the jury was convinced by the Mazzas’ testimony and that of the health experts he asked to testify. He said the verdict is significant because it sends a clear message to landlords and their insurers–that mold-related health problems are real and that they will be held liable.
Attorneys specializing in mold-related cases and other sources that follow such litigation nationally said they were not aware of a bigger award in a mold case based on personal injury. They highlighted a $32-million jury award earlier this year in a Texas case alleging property damage and bad-faith handling of claims by an insurer.
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