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Judge Recognizes State Tort Claims Act in Mold Case

Parents upset over judge’s ruling.

Indiana University (IU) parents with children negatively impacted by moldy dorm rooms and residence halls filed a lawsuit two years ago against the school claiming officials knew about the moldy conditions in student housing for years but didn’t fix the issue.  In 2020, a judge granted their complaint class-action status, alleging IU “breached its contract by providing substandard living assignments to thousands of students staying in residential halls where mold was found.”

Court documents in the case state, “Officials knew about the festering problem since at least 2005, when the university released a report detailing the extent of the mold issues on campus.”  However, by the time the school finally decided to do something about the “emergency,” the lawsuit continues, “visible mold was found in 80% of inspected dorm rooms.”  IU officials agreed that only a full renovation of the halls would eliminate the mold.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

In April 2019, the state budget committee approved Indiana University’s $56 million plan to replace heating, ventilation and cooling systems in Foster and McNutt residence halls. These are renovated in 2020, and with more than 2,000 beds made unavailable during that time and many students to live off campus.

Now, the court has ruled in favor of the Indiana Tort Claims Act, which says the school is only liable for $5 million in damages.  IU had paid its dues to students in the over $7 million it already doled out. vStudents in Foster and McNutt received $3,000 a piece, and students in Teter were compensated for damages to property and health.  The families are not happy about the judgment and attorneys said they are considering their next steps.

Ann Martinez, a mother of a student who became ill, said the ruling made her feel like her daughter’s experience was “invalid and unimportant.”  She also said the process they went through to get help for their students “revealed gaping holes ini protective legislation at a state and national level.  There are really no applicable laws designed to effectively protect students who are living in university housing from the impacts of moldy or substandard conditions.”

Steve Wilson, a father to a student who lived in Teter, said the experience has caused his son to have irreparable anxiety.  Wilson explained, “They are very vulnerable when they are leaving home, many of them for the first time for a long period of time, trying to figure their way through society and then to be essentially just casted aside, that to me was the biggest element of disrespect.”  He added, “All parents want is not special treatment, they simply want the university to uphold what they said they would – provide a clean environment for our children to go to school and thrive and you’re supposed to be there to lead them on the way and we, speaking personally for my family, felt none of that.”

Late last month, the university also revealed one case of mold in Foster but said is “not connected with the 2018-2019 mold issue.”

Sources:

Attorneys Consider Next Steps in IU Mold Lawsuit, Parents React

Lawsuit against IU over dorm mold given class-action status

Lawsuit: Indiana U told staff to downplay campus mold outbreak

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