Mar 9, 2016 0 Comments in Children, Forensics, Mold, Neurotoxicity by

I  served as an expert witness for a family including a child who suffered mental retardation after living in a mold infested home. The child was doing well until exposed to mold, then became sick with multisystem symptoms. The child declined neuropsychologically, and when I saw the child, mental retardation was evident.

I conducted a neuropsychological and neurotoxicological evaluation of the child as well as other family members, including reviews of the parents’ educational and occupational histories. The parents were high achieving professionals. One of the parents became ill after the exposure.

Many people are not aware that mold can damage the nervous system. However, this fact is obvious to those who have actually studied mold neurotoxicity research and have seen patients with mold neurotoxicity. Outcomes of mold neurotoxicity can include headache, dizziness, tremor, sleep disorders, learning disorders, memory loss, personality changes, emotional disorders, dysfunction in planning, management, and control, and other symptoms.

Mold neurotoxicants do not limit their toxic effect to one area of the brain or to one function of the brain – they can affect the entire brain and damage practically any function of the brain. Resulting illness depends upon the exposure duration and intensity; and numerous factors of the person exposed. Small amounts for short duration may be harmless while large amounts for long-duration are more likely to cause harm.

The corporation being sued mounted a very vigorous defense. They hired top defense experts to counter the plaintiff’s expert’s opinions and to bar the testimony of the plaintiff’s witnesses. Prior to my engagement in the case, the defense was successful in barring the testimony of another expert, a well recognized medical doctor in the field of mold illness.

The case was essentially lost, as the plaintiffs were without an expert to diagnose and explain their injuries to the court.

Then the plaintiffs discovered my expertise, and hired me to evaluate the case.

After conducting a very thorough examination of the plaintiff’s family, the exposure data and the medical records, including findings of elevated levels of mycotoxins in the family urine indicating mold exposure, and other data including procedures described above, I concluded that the child was mentally retarded and that his mental retardation was due to his exposure.

I also discovered that one of the parents had also been damaged by the mold exposure. Because she had been so focussed on her child’s illness, as well as keeping the family together during these stressful times, she missed the deadline to seek compensation for those injuries. However, this finding did increase the strength of the findings in the child, as both had a similar exposure to the mold products.

Because of the strength of my findings, the plaintiff family engaged me to provide the court the results of my evaluations and the general picture of mold neurotoxicity as found in the scientific literature.

The defense having successfully prevented the plaintiff’s medical doctor from testifying attempted to bar my testimony also and attempted to persuade the court that mold neurotoxicity does not exist and cannot be proven. This practice of trying to bar the testimony of experts in very common in toxic chemical litigation. The plaintiffs asked me to analyze, critique and rebut the testimony of the defense experts. Ultimately, good science prevailed, and the judge ordered my testimony to proceed.

After learning that my testimony could be heard by a jury, the case immediately settled with a very generous offer from the defense. The lawyer representing the child informed me that this was the largest settlement for mold neurotoxicity at that time.

Some lessons to be learned in this case:

1. Mold neurotoxicity cases can be successfully taken to court for appropriate compensation.
2. The qualifications and experience of the expert and the diligence of the expert’s work are necessary for success.
3. Experience in mold neurotoxicity cases for the expert witness is crucial, as these cases are complex. The expert in these cases needs a background both in neuropsychology and neurotoxicology.
4. The lawyer presenting the case for the plaintiffs must be educable and willing to put the time into learning about mold neurotoxicity.
5. A very experienced lawyer – even if elderly – is often better equipped to handle these types of cases than an inexperienced lawyer.
6. The lawyer for the plaintiff must believe in the case and be willing to go the extra mile for successful resolution of the case.
7. Given appropriate information and lawyer presentations, judges can understand the basis for mold neurotoxicity cases.
8. Careful neuropsychological/neurotoxicological analysis can be persuasive to potential jurors.
9. Mold neurotoxicity injuries can be quite varied.
10. A neuropsychologist experienced in neurotoxicity, or another qualified mental health professional, may be necessary to serve as an expert witness when mental health questions are at stake, such as mental retardation.
11. Mold neurotoxicity cases can be appropriately compensated in settlements.
12. When neurotoxicity and mental health issues are involved, it is crucial to hire a neuropsychologist experienced in mold neurotoxicity at the earliest stage of the case to avoid wasted expenses and to help ensure that the case gets presented fairly to the court.

I recently evaluated a patient with mold neurotoxicity who was not in litigation, but who nevertheless remains quite ill neuropsychologically from her exposure. Unfortunately, her lawyer had settled the case a year ago, without even ordering a neuropsychological evaluation of the plaintiff. The plaintiff was too sick to think for herself, and because of the stress of litigation, just wanted the litigation to end – without regarding compensation for her neuropsychological injuries.

As time went on, she discovered how ill she actually was from her exposure. Although I can assist her with her neuropsychological illness, it is too late to help her recover financially for her loss. This is another example of the problems that can arise in toxic chemical cases when an expert neuropsychologist/neurotoxicologist is not engaged early in the process of finding appropriate medical diagnoses, treatments, and litigation support.

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