Toxic Torts

Filing a Toxic Mold Lawsuit

Reviewed by David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
If there's mold in your home, it's possible that someone else may be on the legal hook for your property damage and even health problems related to mold exposure. But who might be liable, and how do you go about making a case?

If you find toxic mold in your home, apartment, or other property, it could lead to a lawsuit, especially if there was a pre-existing problem with your building, or if clean-up wasn't done properly after a flood or other problem. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of toxic mold lawsuits: who might be liable, what kind of losses might be covered, and why you may need to take action sooner rather than later.

Who Is Liable for Toxic Mold?

If you or a family member have suffered health problems and/or damage to your property due to the presence of toxic mold in your home or other property, you may have be able to file a lawsuit against anyone whose carelessness or negligence caused or contributed to the problem.

Depending on the specifics of the situation, your options might include a personal injury lawsuit, a property damage claim, or even a professional malpractice claim. Let's look at who might be subject to a lawsuit over harm caused by toxic mold:

  • If you're renting your residence, your landlord or property manager could be liable for health problems and damage to personal property stemming from mold exposure (renter's insurance could also come into play to cover property damage).
  • If you bought an existing home and now toxic mold has shown up, the previous owner(s) of the property could be liable for most categories of losses (we'll cover those in the next section), but usually only if they knew about a property defect that could give rise to a mold problem, were under a legal obligation to disclose that problem to potential buyers, and failed to make the disclosure.
  • If you bought a newly-built home, architects, builders, and contractors could be liable if they performed sub-standard care, failed to obtain proper permits or inspections, used faulty materials, or acted negligently in any way that caused or contributed to the presence of toxic mold. The suppliers or manufacturers of any faulty or defective building materials could also be liable.
  • If you hired a company to clean or repair your property after a flood, hurricane, or similar event, and toxic mold showed up after the work was done, the company might be liable.
  • If you have insurance coverage that could apply to mold damage or health problems related to mold exposure (for example, a homeowners’ insurance or renters’ insurance policy, for mold-related property damage; or a health insurer for mold-related health problems), you might have legal recourse against the insurer if the company is dragging its heels on deciding whether a mold-related insurance claim should be paid, or if the carrier has made a “bad faith” denial of a claim related to mold (arguing that coverage for mold damage is excluded from coverage, for example).

What Kind of Losses are Covered?

The categories of compensation (not to mention the amount of that compensation) you can receive in a lawsuit over health problems and/or property damage stemming from toxic mold will vary significantly depending on the facts of the case. But generally speaking, you may have a legal right to recover the past and future costs of:

  • inspecting your property to assess the extent of the damage and get an estimate of the costs to remediate the mold problem
  • making structural repairs, performing new construction/contracting work, and taking other remediation-related steps to fix the problem and rid the property of toxic mold
  • replacing ruined household items
  • housing expenses during repairs or for any period when the residence was not habitable
  • medical treatment made necessary by mold exposure (including costs of ongoing testing and monitoring) as long as you are able to prove a link between the presence of the mold and your health problems
  • lost income or reduced earning capacity (due to mold-related health problems), and
  • non-economic damages (including compensation for pain and suffering, anxiety, and/or emotional distress) where applicable and available.

Time Concerns Related to Toxic Mold Claims

If you’re making a mold-related insurance claim because of damage to your property and/or health problems that you think might be tied to mold, any insurance policy that might trigger coverage almost certainly requires you to notify the carrier of a potential claim within a reasonable time. So, if you have reason to believe there’s a problem with mold in your residence or other property, play it safe and let your insurance carrier know as soon as possible. Otherwise, the insurer could argue that you waited too long, and that adjusters weren’t able to conduct a timely and complete investigation.

If insurance (at least your own coverage) doesn’t apply to the mold problem, or you’re thinking about skipping the insurance claim process and taking the matter right to court, it’s important to understand that all states have laws (called statutes of limitations) that require you to file a lawsuit within a short time after discovering the problem. Learn more: How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim?

If you've got questions related to a potential lawsuit over health problems or property damage caused by exposure to toxic mold, it may be time to discuss your situation with an attorney. Many lawyers specialize in toxic mold cases, and you can use the links on this page to get matched with an experienced legal professional near you.

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