Jul 28, 2023
Jury Awards Texas Family $3.1M in Toxic Home Case
What is 'Toxic' Mold? Its scientific name, stachybotrys chartarum, is a greenish-black mold that grows on highly cellulose material, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, and paper, according to the
What is 'Toxic' Mold?
Its scientific name, stachybotrys chartarum, is a greenish-black mold that grows on highly cellulose material, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, and paper, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mold can only grow with constant moisture, typically from water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding.
— Photos courtesy of HGTV
A Texas jury handed down a multimillion-dollar verdict against a residential homebuilder, roofing contractor and heating and ventilation contractor, finding for the plaintiff’s contention that the house was unsafe to occupy and who bore responsibility.
The state district court jury in Travis County awarded an Austin family $3.1 million after finding that they lost their home and belongings to toxic mold caused by poor construction and a failed heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, according to an August 17 news release by Just Well Law, PLLC.
Just Well Law is an Austin-based firm owned by the plaintiffs, Kristina and Evan Baehr, both litigation attorneys, but did not represent the family in the action; Terrazas PLLC and The McKee Law Group represented the Baehrs.
The news release said the 353rd District Court jury found that Williams-Austin Builders, Inc., Ortiz Sheet Metal Roofing LLC and Woods Comfort Systems, Inc., among others, were negligent in the construction of the home. The jury also found Woods Comfort, the HVAC firm, violated the state deceptive trade practices act and awarded punitive damages against the company.
The court will set the final award amount.
The family said they had pending settlement agreements with all but one of the 11 named defendants before the trial was set to begin. The holdout, Woods Comfort, the HVAC contractor, low-balled the family, “… [offering] only a low five-figure amount to settle the lawsuit before trial.”
The family alleged they lost their home and its possessions due to toxic mold during the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020. According to the lawsuit, "The damage was caused by grossly negligent — and even reckless —design and construction… The Defendants neglected to waterproof the home, even in the areas most prone to water intrusion, and then they insulated the home with spray foam — without proper exits — so … water festered in the wall cavities.
“Meanwhile, they installed an HVAC system that had no way to properly condition the space without creating high levels of humidity. Water damage, rot, and growth then grew into the walls, undetected for years on end, creating an unsafe environment for the Baehrs to raise a family."
In the statement, the Baehrs expressed gratitude to their attorneys, Kevin Terrazas and Robert McKee, and to the court.
“This has been a difficult journey; it's terrifying to be scared of your own home,” the statement read. “We brought this case not only for our own family but for all those who have been poisoned by the negligence of companies that turn a blind eye to toxic exposure … Every family has the right to a home with safe air, and we want families like ours to know that there's hope in the justice system."
Roofing Contractor magazine editor-compiled stories, staff reports and industry news releases.
To submit news or for corrections, contact Bryan Gottlieb, managing editor, at [email protected].