Some claims dismissed in mold lawsuit

Published 10:28 pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

Southwestern Elementary School is at the forefront of a mold lawsuit against Suffolk Public Schools. A mother says her son suffered numerous medical problems after attending school there.

A federal judge last week dismissed some claims in a mold lawsuit against Suffolk Public Schools and sent the case back to Suffolk Circuit Court.

The lawsuit was filed by a parent after her son allegedly suffered numerous medical problems as a result of mold in his school. The School Board attorney moved it to federal court, said the family’s attorney, David Bailey with the Environmental Law Group.

The lawsuit alleges that school employees knew of mold problems at the school, performed tests improperly and did nothing to fix the problems.

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The child’s problems began on his first day of kindergarten at Southwestern Elementary School, according to the lawsuit. He began vomiting that day and was sent home. After being kept at home for two days, he returned and vomited again.

Throughout the rest of the school year, the boy developed multiple sinus and ear infections, skin rashes, watery eyes and repeated vomiting and coughing. Several doctors and specialists prescribed a multitude of antibiotics, ointments and other treatments.

Eventually, the boy was moved to a new seat in the classroom so he would be closer to the door when he needed to vomit. He also endured teasing from classmates about his medical problems, and his clothing was at times covered in blood because of his constant scratching of his rashes.

The child’s mother insisted that tests be done on her son’s classroom. Samples were collected only after a massive cleaning effort, the lawsuit alleges.

Though the tests showed lower mold levels inside the building than outside, the child and his sister were transferred to Hillpoint Elementary School. However, the boy faces long-term medical treatment.

The judge dismissed the federal claim in the family’s lawsuit and sent it back to Suffolk Circuit Court.

“He disagreed on the nature of intent, so he dismissed the federal claim,” Bailey said. “That left only the state law claims.”

The claims remaining have to do with fraud, negligence and gross negligence. The lawsuit is asking for $7.8 million.

Another lawsuit against Suffolk Public Schools concerning mold also was dismissed by a federal judge in recent months. Former teacher Cristina Hood sued the school system after she said mold at Booker T. Washington Elementary School made her sick. She was seeking $1.5 million in damages.

Bailey, who also is handling Hood’s lawsuit, has appealed the dismissal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.