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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. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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