MOLD PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUITS: WHY DO THEY CONTINUE? By Arthur P. Xanthos Permalink
In our August 6, 2014 article, we explained the import of the New York State Court of Appeals' Cornell decision -- without medical community acceptance of causation between mold and bodily injury, courts in New York State will dismiss lawsuits for bodily injury premised on mold. Arthur Xanthos, bodily injury, buildings, causation, co-ops and condo, Cornell v. 360 W. 51st Realty, Gartner + Bloom, lawsuit, mold, personal injury, toxic tort
Since the Cornell decision came down, this Firm has used it twice to dismiss mold-related bodily injury claims against our clients: first in June of 2014 in Benton v. 80 Cranberry, and now in August of 2016 in a case called Sylla-ba v. The Colton Condominium. (Both of these decisions can be accessed on the Firm's website, www.gartnerbloom.com, under Publications.) In Sylla-ba, Justice Cynthia Kern reiterated what the Court of Appeals held: an 'association' between mold and the alleged symptoms of a plaintiff is not the same as 'causation' between them; therefore, proving that there is such an association is insufficient for the bodily injury claims to survive dismissal.
Cornell should have resulted in a sharp drop in the number of mold-related personal injury lawsuits brought in New York's state courts; yet these lawsuits continue to be brought in roughly the same numbers as before Cornell. We suspect the reasons for this counter-intuitive statistic are, (1) the plaintiffs' bar's unfamiliarity with the 2014 Cornell decision (viz., the flawed belief that if you can get one doctor to say 'mold caused the plaintiff's illness', that such is sufficient), (2) the use of a mold-related bodily injury claim as an 'add on' claim to bolster the settlement value of the case, and (3) publication in the popular press of other states' mold verdicts and settlements.
So, we repeat what we wrote in our August 6, 2014 entry: Absent a major change in the science of mold illness, the next few years will see many more summary judgment decisions in favor of land owners and against mold plaintiffs.
Ignoring Court Ordered Discovery Leads to Preclusion of Tenant's Claim, by Arthur Xanthos Permalink
Dentists are fond of saying if you ignore your teeth, your teeth will go away. The same is true in litigation: ignore your discovery obligations and your claim will go away. This Firm is defending a building owner in a case brought by a tenant (who happens to be a lawyer). The tenant alleges among other things bodily injury from second-hand smoke in his apartment. As is customary, we demanded medical authorizations (to secure medical records related to the tenant's treatment) and a bill of particulars compelling the plaintiff to particularize his bodily injuries. We also made sure the court included those demands in several court orders. Arthur Xanthos, bodily injury, discovery, dismissal, Jeffrey Johnson, landlord, lease, litigation, preclusion, sanctions, secondhand smoke, tenant
For unknown reasons, the plaintiff-tenant-lawyer refused to hand over medical authorizations and refused to particularize his injuries. After several attempts at securing the documents failed, this Firm made a motion to compel the tenant to produce the medical authorizations and to serve a meaningful bill of particulars. That motion resulted in an order, with which the plaintiff-tenant-lawyer failed to comply. So another motion was made, and this time an order was sought to preclude/dismiss the tenant's bodily injury claims. That second motion resulted in a more stringent order setting another deadline for the tenant's compliance, and warning the tenant of penalties for non-compliance. The tenant again failed to comply. At a subsequent conference and upon being advised of the tenant's non-compliance, the court after oral argument precluded the tenant from any bodily injury claims at trial, and dismissed any negligence claims found in his complaint. A copy of this decision/order (Johnson v. 78/79 York) can be found at this Firm's website (www.gbglaw.com) under Publications.
Preclusion orders are very rare, especially against pro se plaintiffs. Counsel should expect to make more than one motion, and should request a progressively stronger sanction with each motion made. Obtaining such an order is not a quick exercise either, as it took nearly two years to secure the one discussed herein. -APX 12/16/14