Wis. School Mold Case Settled with Builder for $650,000

April 24, 2006

Thirty-five students and teachers from a Madison, Wis. school that had to be ripped open and reconstructed to get rid of mold have agreed on a $650,000 settlement from the builder, attorneys say.

The plaintiffs reported suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems that they traced to daily exposure to mold at the new Chavez Elementary School in 2001.

Teacher Julie Padley said the asthma and other problems she blames on mold exposure in her kindergarten class haven’t gone away.

“There’s no longer anything resembling a common cold,” she said Friday. “It always becomes a much bigger illness.”

The lawsuit claimed that the company that built the school allowed the mold to grow during construction. After the problems showed up, the school was closed, torn open, cleaned and reconstructed to rid it of mold in many classrooms.

An investigation found that damp interior walls and other moisture problems had been allowed to go unchecked, leading to mold along ceiling tiles, baseboards and other parts of the building.

The builder, Westra Construction Co. of Waupun, went out of business in July 2005.

In a separate agreement in 2002, Westra forgave about $484,000 in construction costs to the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Jim Olson, an attorney with Lawton & Cates, which represented the students and teachers, said the settlement announced Friday ended the final claim in the case.

Subcontractors who took part in construction of the school were cleared of liability, he said.

The money is to be distributed based on each individual’s damages, and any disagreements will be considered in an arbitration proceeding.

“I’m hopeful that they will all have check in hand within 60 days,” Olson said.

A trial of the lawsuit had been scheduled for May 30.

Padley said she and the other plaintiffs would be dividing $400,000 after attorney fees and expenses.

They will not be informed how much others are getting in the settlement.

“As professionals working together, we didn’t want to create more hard feelings,” she said. “The good thing is, it’s over.”

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