A couple from LaFollette, Tennessee, has filed a personal injury lawsuit against Campbell County and the Campbell County Board of Education claiming that their son was exposed to toxic mold at Valley View Elementary School and has developed permanent health problems as a result.
The family filed its premises liability suit after learning in March that their son has developed "permanent health problems as a result of his exposure to mold" at the elementary school he attended in 2005. At least two other families have also filed suit against Campbell County for failing to remediate the mold appropriately after they were notified of it by a teacher.
Shortly after the mold infestation in his classroom, the lawsuit contends, the boy began suffering from headaches, sinus infections and breathing problems. In March, however, the family received news that some of his health problems were permanent. The personal injury lawsuit does not elaborate on the boy's illnesses.
Teacher claims she notified the school board of extensive mold problem in 2005
According to the family's personal injury attorney, the boy's fifth-grade teacher wrote a letter to school board members in August 2005 alerting them that her classroom had a serious mold problem and she was concerned about her students' health.
The teacher and her husband say they spent two days cleaning the classroom before the start of school. She also put two dehumidifiers in the classroom, which had to be emptied on a daily basis because of the "serious mold problem."
Apparently frustrated by the school district's inaction, in November 2005 the teacher sent a letter to the parents of her students alerting them to the problem.
The school system denies having received the August 2005 letter from the teacher and claims to have learned of the mold problem only when she sent letters to the parents. At that point, they scheduled an inspection, which did find mold. The mold was removed, the room was cleaned, and filtering equipment was installed, the school district contends.
Although he admits the mold existed, the school district's lead attorney insists it was not dangerous.
"We typically get two or three mold cases each year. None of them have ever gone anywhere because there's so many types of mold and only one that is dangerous," he told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
In fact, while one type of mold called Stachybotrys atra is especially dangerous, exposure to other types can cause symptoms ranging from mild allergies to fungal infections of the lung, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC recommends treating all mold infestations as if they pose serious health risks.
Nevertheless, the school district is treating the family's claims as a nuisance lawsuit.
"[The teacher] thought her students had Aspergillosis, a disease which causes a lung disease that can lie dormant for years. We asked plaintiffs in prior cases to prove their runny noses and headaches were caused by the exposure to the mold or that they have contracted Aspergillosis and none of them have been able to do so," he told reporters.
The premises liability suit contends the school district was negligent in detecting and remediating the mold problem and seeks monetary damages for the boy's illnesses.