By Howard Greninger
TERRE HAUTE — A personal injury lawsuit filed in April 2002, alleging mold caused respiratory afflictions to some workers inside the former Wabash Valley Surgery and Eye Center, has been settled in mediation.
The lawsuit, originally including 16 employees, alleged respiratory problems from stachybotrys and other molds in an Associated Physicians & Surgeons Clinic (AP&S) building at 422 Poplar St. Stachybotrys is a greenish-black, slimy mold that can release toxic chemicals known as mycotoxins.
The lawsuit was settled Feb. 24 during mediation, the second time the lawsuit had gone to mediation prior to a scheduled trial in October. An “upper-six-figure” settlement was reached with 13 plaintiffs who remained in the lawsuit, said Christopher Gambill, a Terre Haute attorney who represented 11 of the plaintiffs. The settlement was made individually, with each plaintiff receiving a varied amount.
“What really made the settlement possible was Union Hospital had health insurance liens and they agreed to waive hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance liens [with AP&S]. They helped facilitate there being a settlement,” Gambill said.
Gambill said the total value of the settlement, plus the wavier of liens, ranged from $1 million to $1.5 million. He said both the plaintiffs and the defense had high-profile experts ready to testify.
“This was a high-risk case. It is a classic example where settlement came because the risks on both sides were very high,” Gambill said. “The court had set aside a month for this trial.”
The settlement was paid by AP&S, CDI Inc., which erected the building, and Artekna Design, an Indianapolis architectural firm.
“We felt it was appropriate to attend mediation at the time and felt that while the resolution was not the perfect desire of either party, it was a better alternative than moving forward with a trial,” said Pat Board, chief executive officer of AP&S Clinic.
The lawsuit alleged problems from the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, as well as other issues.
Board said under a services agreement with Union Hospital, the clinic underwent extensive repairs paid by the hospital and completed in 2001. Other modifications were made in 2005 and in 2007 and AP&S has moved into a new surgery center. The building now houses offices and an eye center.
“The building has been completely remediated of any mold concerns. The building is functioning 100 percent as it should. It is 100-percent fixed,” Board said.
A telephone message was left Monday at the office of John H. Daerr, attorney for CDI Inc., and with a fellow attorney, Matt Voors, who said he would relay a request for comment to Daerr. Geoff Blazi, an attorney for Artekna, said he was not authorized by Artekna to discuss the settlement.
The lawsuit’s resolution has been a long time coming, said one plaintiff.
“It has been nine long years,” said Terri Acton, 47, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who now works at Union Hospital. “We started in 2000 to try to get information from AP&S about air quality. That is the only reason we sought an attorney is because they would not release that information to us. My physician needed it because my asthma was out of control.”
Acton said workers originally had sought payment for sick time and medical bills “and to fix the building and make it a safe place to work…
“I am satisfied it is over. There comes a point in time that you just want to try to put it behind you. The attorneys, now, can put it behind them. We’ll be a distant memory to them in a few months, but for us, every asthma attack we have, every complication we have from working in the building, will be a constant reminder to us of what we lived with and still continue to live with,” Acton said of medical problems from stachybotrys mold.