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Drees Homes: Jury Awards Virginia Couple $4.75M for Mold Contamination
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Costly Mold: Loudoun couple awarded $4.75M for mold injuries
A Loudoun County Circuit Court jury has returned verdicts totaling $4.75 million for a couple who contended that mold in their $900,000 home sickened them and rendered their house unlivable...The trial before Judge Thomas D. Horne began on Dec. 15, and the jury returned its verdicts early on the afternoon of Dec. 23 after beginning its deliberations late the previous afternoon. It awarded Wendy Meng $2.276 million and Paul Meng $500,000 for negligence and awarded the couple $1.474 million for constructive fraud and $500,000 for violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Costly Mold: Loudoun couple awarded $4.75M for mold injuries

By Alan Cooper
January 5, 2009

A Loudoun County Circuit Court jury has returned verdicts totaling $4.75 million for a couple who contended that mold in their $900,000 home sickened them and rendered their house unlivable.

Paul and Wendy Meng bought the house from The Drees Company in November 2005. They contended that mold developed in the house because the contractor did not allow the wooden structure of the house to dry from the weather before installing insulation and drywall. They also alleged that mold grew as a result of leaks around improperly installed windows.

Several months after moving into the home, Wendy Meng began to get migraine headaches so severe that she was bedridden for weeks at a time, according to her attorney, Dave Wise of Alexandria.

During 2006 and early 2007, she was treated at hospitals seven different times for the migraines, heart palpitations, loss of memory, nervous system dysfunction, difficulty in breathing or chemical sensitivity. At one point, she slept on the floor of her closet because light made her migraines unbearable, Wise said.

She underwent tests for brain tumors and cancer, among other suspected causes of her illness, before tests disclosed the presence of mold in the house. The family moved out in April 2007, and the house remains vacant.

Wise said the Mengs continued to suffer from the effects of exposure to mold after they moved out of the house and until they were treated by Dr. Allan Lieberman with a month-long biodetoxification program in South Carolina in September 2008.

Wendy Meng had been very involved in the activities of her daughters, who were 11 and 9 when they moved out of the house, but a friend who also was involved in those activities testified that her condition deteriorated while she lived there. It was only after the treatment by Dr. Lieberman that “I got my friend back,” the friend said.

During the trial, Wise presented evidence it would cost $400,000 to properly remediate the house by removing all drywall and lumber that was contaminated by mold. The family also testified that they disposed of almost $100,000 worth of furniture, clothes and other personal effects because they were contaminated by mold.

The trial before Judge Thomas D. Horne began on Dec. 15, and the jury returned its verdicts early on the afternoon of Dec. 23 after beginning its deliberations late the previous afternoon. It awarded Wendy Meng $2.276 million and Paul Meng $500,000 for negligence and awarded the couple $1.474 million for constructive fraud and $500,000 for violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

The jury found in favor of the contractor on claims of actual fraud, breach of contract and personal injury to the Mengs’ daughter.

Still pending are claims for rescission and attorneys’ fees under the VCPA. A hearing on post-trial motions is set for Feb. 6. One issue, Wise acknowledged, is whether some of the awards are duplicative.

Efforts to reach the attorneys for Drees, Kurt C. Rommel and Jeffrey S. Poretz of Mclean, were unsuccessful.

Drees is among the country’s largest homebuilders. Builders Magazine, the publication of the National Association of Home Builders, named it “2008 America’s Best Builder.”

 
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Reckless Endangerment
BY: GRETCHEN MORGENSON
and JOSHUA ROSNER

Outsized Ambition, Greed and
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