Jury Reaches Verdict in Mold Lawsuit

Thursday, May 9, 2013
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A Santa Barbara jury ruled against a family suing the Santa Barbara Housing Authority for chronic illnesses they alleged were caused by toxic mold in their apartment. The verdict, rendered after a seven-week trial, concluded that the Housing Authority was in fact negligent in its maintenance of the apartment but that none of the four plaintiffs suffered harm as a result of that negligence. The suit was filed two years ago by Inger Budke, a property management specialist for the Housing Authority, who claimed that the mold in her apartment was so bad that her husband and two children suffered chronic sinus and respiratory ailments. Budke lived as a resident manager at the 106-unit Shifco affordable housing complex located on the Mesa. She and her family moved out for six months.

The Housing Authority contended that it addressed the problem as soon as the Budkes notified them and made necessary repairs in a timely fashion. Attorneys for the Housing Authority acknowledged there was mold in the premises, but disputed that it was toxic. The Budkes had sought $1.2 million; the Housing Authority offered $50,000, and the ensuing trial constituted a showdown between the dueling experts. Based on the verdict, the Housing Authority had better experts, and the jury concluded that the property was not maintained in a dangerous condition during the Budkes’ tenancy.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

They got housing and a job and this is how they repay Housing Authority. Pini knowingly neglects his rentals and he gets nothing. What is going on?

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 2:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What a lot of false equivalencies. Take two of them away - jobs and housing, because they do not factor into anything. This is only about the properties in which people live.

Case 1: sued because of mold. I know of a cancer patient who was told by his doctor to get out of their current home because it had mold.

Case 2: Has anyone sued Pini? Do they have a case?

What was your question again? And just because they have housing, does that mean they should not complain if it were rotting and rat-infested?

tabatha (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 2:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey Tabatha, I know of a Psychic that told the family in Cleveland that their daughter was dead. What is your point?
Thank gawd sanity reigned over this obvious attempted grab of public funds.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 2:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Remind me again why this family did not move once they found this was not a healthy situation according to their own subjective sensibilities?

It is not enough we turned 17% of our city housing units over to subsidized renters or owners, we are now on the hook for each of them to demand $1 million in damages for the privilege of living in these subsidized units.

Close them all down and get this city out of the housing business. We never should have gotten into it in the first place.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 5:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Only a fool throws the baby out with the bathwater.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 5:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does anyone see the biased reporting? "Based on the verdict, the Housing Authority had better experts..." Maybe the verdicts were based on the facts and that none of the plaintiffs suffered any harm. I get it that Nick doesn't treat landlords with kid gloves, but this the same guy didn't give the last non blessed council runners any space in the Indy in the last election. 1. 2 million? Looks like maybe Budkes working for a HA project as a specialist thought she could retire from some deep pockets. She defiantly had an knowledge of how the system works and I guess $50,000 just wasn't enough of that cash pie. She should have taken the money and ran. It would have been a good down payment on a condo.
Not all mold is created equal, especially on the Mesa where the dampness, post war construction and often limited ventilation is common as is surface the mold that is easily wiped away with a rag and some bleach. We all grew up with it.
Are we talking about major flooding, long standing water leaks and rot that was not addressed when noticed, and positive allergy testing, or long running respiratory issues that seem to be increasing overall?
In case anyone hasn't noticed, the suits filed for mold cases has gone down proportionally since insurance companies stopped including mold it their policies without a rider (which is often available for renters). It's kind of like peanuts. Now you can sue Pad Thai.

LizW (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 7:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What isn't being talked about is the fact that California has no regulations or laws regarding mold in rental housing, public or private.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 8:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This was expected to be an exceptionally long trial. Potential jurors who weren't compensated by employers for time spent on jury duty, as well as private business owners, were excused based on their financial hardship. Jurors who received compensation for jury duty and who weren't excused for other reasons were government employees, in civil litigation against a government entity. (I don't know the # of government employees on the jury). This was an example of exclusion of the private sector from the democratic process and bias toward the public sector based on an inequality between private sector and public sector employee benefits, which are financed by the private sector. It's possible we (the private sector) paid for "better experts" for the city of Santa Barbara. I have no idea whether this is true or relevant to the jury decision.
KenVolok: There is CA law addressing mold; discusses landlord/tenant responsibilities and relevant law. CA law cited in mold cases is mentioned in this publication; Moskovitz et al., California Landlord-Tenant Practice, Section 3.11B (Cal. Cont. Ed. Bar 2011); see Health and Safety Code Sections
25400.10-25400.46, effective January 1, 2006.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2013 at 9:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am sorry for the family. Unfortunately, the jury usually doesn't hear the truth during these trials. In some cases, the insurance companies or other defendants pay money to the jurors or judges to get them to rule in their favor. To get accurate information about the health effects of mold, go to

TruthAboutMold (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2013 at 11:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A wild accusation. Bribery of jury and judge is punishable by law. The judge would be risking a de - frocking - or whatever they do to crooked judges and lawyers.

Someone's been watching too much television.

samuel (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2013 at 8:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I feel bad for this family and all of us taxpayers who will now foot the bill for their injuries via social service and disability programs since the city's insurer was able to skirt their finanical responsibility for the long term damage.

What kind of a human being brags about winning by craftily keeping evidence from the eyes of a jury that little children were severely harmed by an environmental exposure?

From the defense firm's bizarre press release: "Plaintiffs alleged adverse health conditions as a result of living in an uninhabitable apartment. They claimed that their daughters developed asthma and severe allergies, and that their youngest daughter was born with severe neuro-cognitive and neuro-behavioral deficits as a result of conditions in the apartment. Strategically crafted motions in limine and a full week of 402 hearings resulted in all neurological, neurobehavioral and psychological claims being dismissed by the Court. All evidence relating to mycotoxins and poisons was likewise dismissed."

Read their press release here:

MrsKramer (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2013 at 7:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I read the story written by the defending law firm, as the story appeared on the PR Newswire, and noticed these facts:

"Strategically crafted motions in limine and a full week of 402 hearings resulted in all neurological, neurobehavioral and psychological claims being dismissed by the Court. All evidence relating to mycotoxins and poisons was likewise dismissed."

So that's how the defense "won" its case. The defending law firm simply made sure the jury did not hear the evidence!

The defense lawyers and the judge who ruled in favor of the successful motions to prevent the jury from learning relevant information deserve to be hung, drawn, and quartered. What a mockery of justice.

Hope the plaintiffs' lawyer did a good job in preserving the right(s) to appeal . . . It would be too bad if the plaintiffs' lawyer sabotaged the case by not doing so.

CarolDarol (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2013 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a person whose quality of life has been destroyed by mold, I feel very sorry for the plaintiffs.

I've experienced firsthand the devastating health effects of mold. My life will never be the same.

The health damage my loved ones have experienced as a result of mold exposure breaks my heart.

It's time the California government takes a leadership role in establishing a way to prevent slumlords from harming people. As taxpayers, we all pay for the costs associated when someone's health is damaged by mold and the negligent party is not held accountable. As a society, doing nothing while others are harmed is not acceptable.

AlexT (anonymous profile)
March 24, 2015 at 9:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No good turn goes unpunished. Good work, jury.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 9:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

That's what we get for having "affordable" housing. The government pays for it then gets sued for it's trouble. Dump low income housing projects and let entitled low income people seek housing elsewhere.

Now does anyone wonder why there's a dearth of section 8 housing in SB?

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 9:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So, in general (not this case before everyone harps in), if the government subsidizes it, no one should be allowed to complain if the property is ridden with toxic mold or maybe a wall collapses and kills a sleeping baby because the structure was poorly maintained or some other tragedy occurs due to failure to properly maintain it? Really?

Again, not referring to this case because a jury found it was properly maintained.

sacjon (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 10:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

No, if the government doesn't get involved in providing this service, then the government and the taxpayer won't be liable for these types of problems.

Should they be able to go after the landlord if they notify the landlord doesn't fix the problem? Yes, but the landlord should be able to evict them to resolve it as well if that is necessary.

Section 8 is never worth it for the landlord. I'm really surprised any landlords remain in the program.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 10:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nothing prevents people from moving out of publicly subsidized housing if it does not meet their needs; but still works fine for others. Public housing cannot and shall not attempt to meet all needs at all times.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 10:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Stachybotrys ? Or mold. Toxic black mold or just common mold.

You eat mold a lot. Cheese is one example. Stachybotrys is dangerous and toxic and causes a lot of harm.

Ken, there is a law that forces disclosure if the landlord or seller knows of the presence.

What I fail to understand is why someone would remain in any place that causes them harm. Move. Get out, go somewhere else. If you value your health more than anything, especially a crappy apartment. What the heck are you doing living there? And why would you move back in????

Glad the jury tossed this one. Hopefully the family will move away from SB and take their litigious butts elsewhere. Curious if these adults were smokers? And what is the husbands line of work? Does he work in and around chemicals?

Sam_Tababa (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 1:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow this story is so two years ago! Gotta bring back the classics I guess.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 2:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mmmmmmm....moldy cheese...

sacjon (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2015 at 2:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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