Workers sue over alleged mold exposure
By Todd Ruger


At least 11 employees of the Iowa Department of Corrections facility at 605 Main St., Davenport, are suing the building’s owner for damage to their health, citing the building’s water leaks, air-quality problems and high levels of mold.

Eight lawsuits filed Monday in Scott County District Court accuse Community Resources Corp., the not-for-profit company that owns the building, of negligence for allegedly failing to identify and repair water leaks, ignoring visible mold and failing to prevent mold growth or repair raw sewage leaks.

One of those lawsuits, if approved as a class-action suit, potentially could allow other employees and people who have walked in and out of the building to join, lawyer Dennis VanDerGinst said.

The lawsuits do not ask for a specific amount of damages or list specific health problems stemming from the building’s environment, but employees named as plaintiffs in some of the lawsuits have previously talked about their experiences.

A former secretary at the building, Susan Purdy, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September 2000, but that diagnosis was discarded a short time later when a spinal tap ruled out the disease. Purdy said she suffered from nausea, headaches, fatigue and chronic sinus trouble.

A physician in Albany, N.Y., found evidence of different types of toxic mold, and tests showed mold-exposure damage to her immune and central nervous systems, Purdy added.

Willie Stevenson, a security guard at the building from 1987 to April 2001, also filed suit. He blames struggles with brain tumors, a seizure disorder and hearing, eyesight and memory problems on mold levels in the building.

Other employees suing are Mary Schave; Traci Bray; Diana Danielson and her husband, Jeffrey; Cynthia Weil and her husband, Robert; Cindy VanLandegen and her husband, David; Judith Cary; Kim Crandall; and Nancy Simms. Stevenson’s wife, Debra, and Purdy’s husband, Dale, also are named as plaintiffs in the suit.

At least eight employees have filed worker’s compensation claims. However, those claims only can compensate for medical bills and lost wages, not for pain and suffering, VanDerGinst said.

Davenport lawyer Tom Waterman, who represents Community Resources, did not return telephone calls from the Quad-City Times seeking comment Tuesday.

However, he said in July that any cleanup deemed necessary in pending studies by the health department or the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Division, or IOSH, would be the responsibility of the building tenants.

The State of Iowa has operational control of the building, and the owner relies on the tenant to comply with health and safety regulations, he said.

Dr. Richard Lipsey, a toxicologist, took cotton swab samples from the building in February 2002, revealing what he said are toxic mold levels as much as 12,000 times higher than those found in an average household.

The IOSH slapped a $5,625 fine on the Department of Correctional Services for problems it found with asbestos, a protective-equipment program, blood-borne pathogen exposure policies and respirator-usage plans within the building.

Because there are no federal or state standards governing toxic molds, the IOSH cannot cite the facility for those high levels.

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