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Mom can’t receive damages based on daughter’s injuries caused by mold

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a compensatory damage award of $20,000 to the parents of an adult daughter who was sickened by mold growing in her apartment after finding the facts of the case don’t support the amount awarded.

Brittany Murphy and her father, Kendall Murphy, signed a lease for Brittany Murphy to live in an apartment in Marshall County while she attended Ancilla College and played basketball for the school. Her friend, Jay Frazier, also enrolled in the school and they decided to live together, although Frazier did not pay any rent or sign the lease. Brittany Murphy paid rent with the help of her parents.

The two leased an apartment that is below-grade and requires a dehumidifier to remove moisture. The lease includes a mold clause that says Hi-Tec as lessor had no personal responsibility for personal injury or property damages as a result of mold and the lessees agreed to save harmless Hi-Tech for personal injury, suffering, etc.

After living in the apartment for a few weeks, Brittany Murphy and Frazier became ill and their asthma was aggravated. Brittany Murphy even had trouble playing basketball. They discovered mold and contacted Hi-Tec. The company moved them into an above-grade apartment.

Brittany Murphy; her parents, Kendall and Lorie Murphy; and Jay Frazier sued Hi-Tec alleging negligence, fraud and breach of contract. They alleged the company knew the apartment had previous issues with mold when renting it to Brittany Murphy and Frazier. The trial court ruled the exculpatory clause contained in the lease immunizing the company against liability for injuries caused by mold was void as against public policy. The jury found Hi-Tech 100 percent at fault and awarded Brittany Murphy and her parents $10,000 each in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages for Brittany Murphy. Frazier received no compensatory damages.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding that the exculpatory clause was void, noting the clause is inconsistent with common-law principles of tort law that a landlord may be held liable for personal injuries caused by latent defects known to the landlord but unknown to the tenant and which the landlord fails to disclose.

The judges affirmed the amount of damages awarded to Brittany Murphy, but reversed the amount her parents are entitled to receive. Kendall Murphy is only entitled to $2,360, the amount he paid in rent to Hi-Tec on the apartment. And there’s no evidence that Kendall and Lorie suffered any damages as a result of Hi-Tech’s alleged fraud or negligence. Lorie Murphy did not sign the lease and did not live there, so she is not entitled to any damages.

The case, Hi-Tec Properties, LLC v. Brittany Murphy, Kendall Murphy, Lorie Murphy, and Jay Frazier, 50A05-1401-CT-14, is remanded for further proceedings.

 

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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