WASHINGTON — The law firm Venable LLP announced that it has gained a victory for property managers and owners confronted by mold claims, winning a summary judgment in the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of a company that develops, owns, and manages apartments. In this case, says Venable, the court adopted a new standard for proving damages in suits alleging injuries and damage from mold exposure.

Venable represented Dallas, Texas-based Lincoln Property Co. in a case brought by two tenants who had resided in an apartment complex in Centreville, Va. In Roche v. Lincoln Property, the plaintiffs alleged bodily injuries, including brain damage and allergic reactions, as well as property damage as a consequence of exposure to alleged toxic molds in their apartment. The plaintiffs asserted claims for negligence based on alleged violations of the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VTRLA) and various other building codes, as well as other causes of action, all of which were dismissed.

After the conclusion of discovery in the case, Lincoln filed a summary judgment motion, arguing that the plaintiffs could not establish a negligence claim because: (1) they could not present any evidence demonstrating that Lincoln violated the VTRLA or any state building codes or otherwise violated its duty of care; (2) the plaintiffs’ expert could not establish a causal connection between the alleged mold and their claimed injuries under the standards adopted in Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and (3) they failed to offer any evidence of property damage. The court agreed with Lincoln and granted summary judgment in its favor on each of the plaintiffs' claims.

“A stringent new standard consistent with Daubert has been set for those bringing toxic mold injuries,” stated Connie Bertram, a Venable partner in Washington who represented Lincoln. She noted that “This ruling makes clear that individuals who seek recovery for claimed mold exposure will be held to the same high standards of causation to which any other claimant is held in federal court. This ruling is particularly significant given the lack of medical evidence linking mold exposure to physical injuries. The court's ruling is very good news for property owners and managers, who have increasingly been hit with mold and so-called sick building syndrome claims in recent years.”

Publication date: 09/15/2003