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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. Number one, only $1 was earmarked as punitives. Most of the $1,950,000 was earmarked as pain and suffering. But I will give you, JS, that sure does sound punitive! Number two, remittitur, for certain, but how does one unring the dinner bell that has now been sounded? Catholic school blood is in the sharktank.

  2. Hi, I had an auto accident on 12/26/2012 on I-65 near Lafayette, IN. I rear hit a semi truck. Meanwhile, I got a traffic ticket. I went to White Superior Court to have a hearing. I thought that I could win the case. I lost. I am not sure if you will be able to reverse the judgment in the White Superior Court. Meanwhile, I will try to let the insurance agency for the truck driver to pay the damages to my car. I wonder if your office is willing to handle the case. Thanks.

  3. Putting aside the question of how they got past the pastoral purpose/ 1st Amendment/ MSJ hurdle-- let me ask this: a million bucks in punitive damages? are you kidding me? absolutely ridiculous. Remittitur.

  4. Compromising precious constitutional rights in order to protect them? Rather like the military intelligence slogan that the town had to be destroyed in order to save it. Looks like Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus will have quite the eventful Boxing Day this year. Wise men will arrive to find no one to accept their gifts? Oh well, wisdom not all that desired this xmas anyway. Maybe the ACLU and Christian attorneys can work out a "three days every third year" visitation compromise and all of this messy litigation stuff can just be boxed up as well? It is an art form, now isn't it? Thomas More, a man of manifold compromises is undoubtedly cheering on wildly.

  5. From the MCBA: “This situation is not just about the death of Michael Brown, but the thousands of other African-Americans who are disproportionately targeted and killed by police officers.” The association said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer. HOPING that the MCBA will denouce the execution style killig of two NYC police officers this day, seemingly the act of one who likewise believes that the police are targeting blacks for murder and getting away with it. http://www.mediaite.com/online/two-nypd-cops-fatally-shot-in-ambush-in-brooklyn/ Pray this violence soon ends, and pray it stays far away from Indiana.

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