Court: Toxic mold in office caused worker's health problems (12/4)
In the fall of 1999, a doctor determined that he had developed irreversible damage to his inner ear and vestibular system, resulting in a permanent loss of balance. In 2002, Cameron and his wife sued Merisel, claiming that Cameron's workplace was contaminated with toxic molds and that its failure to correct the problem or warn Cameron caused his permanent injuries.
The case went to trial in Wake County in March 2006. The jury found that Merisel was liable for damages to Cameron, awarding him $1.6 million for his injury and awarding his wife $200,000 for her loss of his company and services.
Merisel appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, arguing that Cameron had not proven that his illness was caused by exposure to toxic molds at work and that the trial court therefore should have dismissed the case. The court disagreed, finding that Cameron had produced ample evidence of Merisel's mold having caused his problems.
According to Cameron's account, before Merisel purchased the facility in 1998, it had received inspection reports indicating that it had moisture problems. A number of Cameron's co-workers claimed that they had various respiratory problems and complained about the mold to Merisel's maintenance supervisor.
In 1999, air quality tests confirmed that mold was present in the building. After these test results, Merisel entrusted a new supervisor with building maintenance and was instructed to solve the moisture problems in the Cary building. In January 2000, a Merisel employee lodged a complaint about mold and moisture with NC-OSHA, and in March, tests revealed the presence of Stachbotrys mold in Cameron's office.
Cameron's health had been fine before he went to work at Merisel, but it quickly deteriorated while he worked in the Cary facility. Cameron's doctor diagnosed him with bilateral vestibular dysfunction. In the doctor’s opinion, Cameron's condition was caused by poisoning of the ears by exposure to some toxin. He did not learn that Cameron had been exposed to toxic molds until after making this initial diagnosis. Once he heard about the presence of Stachybotrys mold in Cameron's office, he concluded that the loss of Cameron's vestibular function was, in his best medical judgment, due to exposure to a mycotoxin from the fungus.
Cameron also brought in two other expert witnesses, an expert in environmental medicine and a mold expert, who also testified that the mold at the Cary facility presented a health hazard and that mold was most likely the cause of Cameron's illness.