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Family wins record settlement over toxic mold

/ Source: The Associated Press

A family who claims toxic mold in their home caused brain damage in their baby has reached a $22.6 million settlement against a lumber company and 16 other defendants.

The parents of Kellen Gorman claimed that he became sick because of mold on framing studs that had been improperly stored by Crenshaw Lumber Co. Inc. of Gardena, which agreed to pay $13 million of the settlement. The studs were used in the custom-built Manhattan Beach home the family lived in for about two years beginning in 1999.

Kellen, now 5, functions as a 1½-year-old and needs 24-hour care, the family’s lawyer, Brian D. Witzer, told the Daily Journal of Los Angeles.

Raymond P. Boucher, president of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, said the Oct. 19 settlement was the largest in the country for a mold case involving a single-family home.

Crenshaw settled the day after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria G. Chaney barred the wood supplier from using 10 of its 17 experts, including a toxicologist and a microbiologist, Witzer said.

The company said in a statement that it believes jurors would have “completely vindicated” it had the judge not excluded the witnesses.

Witzer said the judge excluded the experts because a lawyer for the defense allegedly missed a deadline for designating witnesses and backdated a document to cover it up. Chaney referred the issue to the State Bar for investigation, Witzer said.

Neither Crenshaw nor any of the other defendants admitted liability.

James D. Fraser, an attorney who represented a sheet metal company in the suit, said Kellen’s doctors concluded he suffered from autism — a condition for which there is no known cause.