May 22 2003:
The two new notices brings the total to four mold-related notices filed against the school boards and other parties involved in the construction, maintenance and repair of area schools by students and their parentsd.
According to the attorney representing the parents and students, John E. Deaton of Early, Ludwick & Sweeney, L.L.C., in New Haven, Conn., four or five more notices of intent to sue could be filed in upcoming weeks concerning not only various Connecticut schools, but also schools in Massachusetts and possibly other states. He plans to file formal complaints in all of the school cases by the end of June.
One of the two more recent notices was filed by Deborah Carrier on behalf of her daughter Laurabeth Gelzinis, alleging that Laurabeth sustained health injuries due to mold and other indoor environmental problems at Torrington Middle School (TMS) in Torrington, Conn.
Other previously filed notices concerning TMS were filed by Linda Hall and Melinda Woiten, whose sons Matthew Hall and Michael Woiten have allegedly experienced upper respiratory problems and acute asthma attacks as a result of exposure to mold in the school.
Meanwhile, parent Clare Cifarelli filed a similar notice of intent on behalf of her 14 year-old child who was enrolled at Joseph Melillo Middle School (JMMS) in East Haven, Conn.
Four to five additional notices of intent may be filed by parents of children from various other schools, including Deer Run Elementary School in East Haven, Conn., and in Massachusetts, Deaton said.
According to Deaton, all of the notices of intent to sue include similar allegations, that the school boards were negligent in allowing the school to develop a poor indoor air environment, and that the school boards know about the problems and failed to remedy them.
"For example, they have known for years that the TMS roof leaks," Deaton observed. "They have known it is a problem and that kids have been sick. Likewise, in East Haven at JMMS there have been complaints in the past that there is poor indoor air quality and poor environment and children are getting sick."
At minimum, Deaton contends that the schools should have informed parents of ongoing or potential environmental problems.
"If you have a few kids who are being home-taught because of breathing problems, that at a minimum should trigger the school administration to take affirmative action to ensure that other children do not become sick by notifying the parents of a potential risk," Deaton stated.
"I have one parent whose child has seen a neurologist and has had MRIs, x-rays, and CAT scans. Had the school notified the parent that some other children also enrolled in the school were experiencing problems, then the child might have been more effectively diagnosed and treated," Deaton continued. "It is sort of a continuing theory of negligence. Negligence in the first because the schools have allowed the problems to happen. Second, knowing that something is wrong but then not doing enough about it. And third, by not notifying the parents according to their moral, ethical and legal responsibility," he concluded.
Testing has not yet been conducted in all of the schools. Deaton said that on Jan. 19, Edward Olmsted, CIH, CSP, of Olmsted Environmental Services, Inc., based in Garrison, N.Y., conducted a survey of TMS, taking air samples and wipe and/or bulk samples. Various molds were found, some at elevated levels, including Stachybotrys chartarum, Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium, Aspergillus versicolor, Penicillium, Acremonium, and Aspergillus fumigatus.
Deaton conceded that spoliation of evidence is a concern in this type of case, especially considering the necessity of filing a notice of intent to sue before the actual complaint can be filed. In a letter dated May 21, he requested voluntary access to the schools for testing. If the access is not granted voluntarily, Deaton said that he would have to seek judicial intervention.
"I'm hoping that in the search for the truth, the schools will have no problem with my request for access for sampling and testing," Deaton said.
For more information on the Hall/Woiten case, please see "Two Public School Students File Notice of Intent to Sue School Board, Others for Mold Illnesses" in the May 2003 issue of COLUMNS-Mold.
The parents and students are represented by John E. Deaton of Early, Ludwick & Sweeney, L.L.C., in New Haven Conn.
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