It became obvious to Deloris Griffin that the spring rains that caused flooding in the basement of her West Bloomfield, MI, condominium carried more than the disappointment of soggy carpeting and warped furniture. The moisture left an unwelcome visitor behind — toxic black mold (stachybotrys chartarum).

The year was 1997 and Ms. Griffin told CNN correspondent Joan MacFarlane “there was a small, round, black circle, which I attributed to a hole in the drywall.” MacFarlane wrote, “It turned out that the ‘hole’ was actually the mold. What was worse, it was making Griffin and her 14-month-old granddaughter Mikala sick.”

In light of the recent controversies surrounding mold litigation and insurance companies capping the amount of coverage for mold claims, I thought it would be interesting to follow up on what has occurred with the Griffins in the last five years.


The first thing I discovered upon interviewing Griffin was that the connection between the mold and their health problems was never established.

It was true that Mikala had to go in for surgery every month to remove tumors from inside her larynx, resulting from a disease called “childhood laryngeal papillomatosis.”

Griffin also suffered from persistent skin rashes and irritations, stating, “Every time I went in the basement, I would get sick.”

But contrary to the original CNN story, the presence of stachybotrys was never found to be a cause for making the condo occupants sick, according to Griffin. However, their health problems have cleared up in the years after remediation of the mold.


Griffin had problems from the beginning with the condominium managers. (Note: The management has since changed.) When she moved in, she noticed water damage in her unfinished basement and she said the company stalled, telling her they would fix the problem. When they allegedly fixed the problem and told Griffin she would no longer have flooding, she went ahead and finished the basement.

When the basement flooded again, Griffin said the management company took several months to act on her complaint.

“The odor and the fumes from the thick carpeting and walls were making us sick,” she said. “If they [management] had only acted when the flooding happened…”

Griffin recalled a news story about black mold and decided to take action.

“If it had not been for me remembering the story, the problem would have gotten worse,” she said.

Griffin called the local TV news station that originally aired the black mold story and asked for help. The station referred her to a company that specialized in IAQ testing. Once the presence of mold was confirmed, the condominium managers hired a company to come in and clean up the mold, an expense that was paid for by their insurance company.

Griffin was moved into a hotel for a few days while “men in space suits tore out walls,” as she recalled. The total cost of the clean-up was over $15,000, she said.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to some conclusions here. First of all, the mold problem in Griffin’s condominium was compounded by inaction. Delaying remediation was a big factor in the judgment for the Melinda Ballard family of Dripping Springs, TX, against Farmer’s Insurance. (See related story, page 21.)

If there are lessons to be learned here, they are: A) Don’t jump to conclusions about the affects of mold on human health until all of the facts have been researched, yet B) do jump into action when mold is present. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 05/27/2002