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Family wins mold lawsuit

Center Street home mold allegedly caused severe respiratory problems for girl who lived there. Home owner is appealing.

April 29, 2010|By Jonathan Oyama

An Orange County jury has awarded a father $1.2 million in damages in a lawsuit against a landlord for neglecting the repair of a mold-infested house in Laguna Beach.

Patrick Fetzer accused the lease owner of neglecting to eliminate the water intrusion in the home. According to Fetzer’s attorneys, the elevated moisture and water intrusion in the home caused mold to spread throughout the home at 255 Center St.

According to the lawsuit, the mold caused Fetzer’s daughter, Lauren, to develop severe respiratory problems from 2006 to 2008. Shortly after the family moved out of the house in 2008, she was diagnosed with a rare disease called pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, which almost killed her. According to the Pulmonary Alveolvar Proteinosis Foundation’s website, the disease is characterized by the buildup of grainy material in the alveoli, or air sacs, of the lungs. This material makes it difficult for the alveoli to absorb oxygen.

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The jury in the case found that the landlord, Sadiq Saferzadeh, concealed information about the water damage in the house. They also found that his conduct breached the implied warranty of habitability for homes in California.

An attorney for the Fetzers, Court B. Purdy, said that Saferzadeh could have hired a roofing contractor to repair the roof and a licensed plumber to fix the pipes in the house. He could have also updated the windows so that they wouldn’t leak on the sides.

“We even found within our documentation that the Realtor who sold the property himself had spoken with Mr. Saferzadeh about the repairs that needed to be made,” Purdy claimed. “The owner instead ignored the mold problems, because the home was expensive to repair.”

Saferzadeh’s attorney, Tom Ely, said there was no clear evidence that mold had infested the house. According to Ely, Saferzadeh didn’t find any mold when he bought the house and said that the previous tenant had not complained about mold. Ely also said that Lauren Fetzer’s illness was extremely rare, so it was unlikely that she had caught the disease from the mold in the house.

“The Fetzers brought five experts, involved in plumbing and construction, to testify about the condition of the house, and no one found any indication of mold,” Ely said. “Of course, there’s mold everywhere around a house, but there’s no real proof that the mold had caused this particular family to catch the disease. And there’s more moisture around houses near the coast, such as those in Laguna Beach, so mold tends to grow in these types of places.”

Ely said that he has filed an appeal for a new trial in May. According to Ely, the trial was an unpleasant experience for Saferzadeh. Ely doesn’t know what Saferzadeh plans to do with the house.

“I don’t really know what his plans are with the house,” Ely said. “I’m sure he would like to sell it, but in this current housing market, I don’t know if he’ll be able to sell it at the right price.”


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