$4.3M mold verdict buried in litigation

Source: The Times Tribune, Scranton, PA, February 24, 2011
By: Steve McConnell

A $4.3 million toxic mold jury verdict in October involving two homeowners, their ruined “dream” home, a North Pocono township and a private contractor remains buried in litigation.

More money, or a lengthy appeals process, could be at stake, according to recent court filings.

A 2002 Madison Twp. road project led to a lawsuit the following year that resulted in the multimillion-dollar verdict. The suit claimed the project funneled stormwater onto the two former residents’ property, spawning toxic mold inside their home and causing post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the aftermath of the jury award in Lackawanna County Court, an attorney representing Teresa Perrini and Theresa Koziell has filed motions for them to be awarded additional compensation – or delay damages – because of the length of time between when the suit was filed in 2003 and the trial’s end.

Attorney Nicholas E. Fick did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The township’s attorney, Kathleen A. Walsh, requested oral arguments on the matter be held before Lackawanna County Judge Carmen Minora, who presided over the civil trial.

Informal talks among the parties with Judge Minora to finalize the verdict – including the issue of delay damages and to prevent an appeal to higher court – broke down in the daylong, closed-door negotiation on Jan. 10.

Efforts to reach Ms. Walsh and township solicitor H. Clark Connor also were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Township Supervisor Philip Setzer declined to comment.

The jury levied 76 percent, about $3.3 million, of the $4.3 million against the township, and 24 percent, about $1 million, against the contractor involved in the project, Hanson Aggregates.

Ms. Perrini and Ms. Koziell, who could not be reached for comment, were awarded $3.4 million for past and future post-traumatic stress disorder and loss of life’s pleasures in the use of the property; and about $900,000 related to the loss of their property and medical expenses.

Mr. Connor has maintained the township will only have to pay $500,000 because of a state statute limiting liability to municipal governments in the event of such a civil claim, but that delay damages are not subject to the liability cap.

The township’s municipal insurance provider has offered to cover the $500,000 and delay damages if awarded, Mr. Connor has said.

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