Students file lawsuit against Morris College for mold in dorms

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 11/19/17

A group of five current and former Morris College students filed a lawsuit against the college Wednesday for health issues related to mold infestation in the student dormitories on campus.

The class action suit was served to the college late …

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Students file lawsuit against Morris College for mold in dorms

Posted

A group of five current and former Morris College students filed a lawsuit against the college Wednesday for health issues related to mold infestation in the student dormitories on campus.

The class action suit was served to the college late Thursday afternoon, and a copy of the suit was sent to The Sumter Item about the same time by attorney John Harrell of Harrell Law Firm, PA, in Charleston. The firm is representing the students in the case.

The five plaintiffs were - or are current - residents in student housing on the Morris campus, 100 W. College St. The plaintiffs are Teanna Caswell, Maya Robinson, Kiesha Robinson, Myrcle Fleming and Kianna Joint.

The college is the defendant in the case.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs are seeking at least $55 million in damages.

The 17-page class action complaint asserts the plaintiff students were exposed to "toxic mold and other hazardous substances" while residing in three dorms on the campus in 2013. The three dorms listed in the lawsuit are Amma Dorm, Alma Dorm and the New Women's Hall. As part of the class action aspect, the complaint asserts every student, not just the five bringing the case, were affected and therefore eligible for damages.

The various health hazards in the dorms, according to the claims, included toxic mold infestation and leaking and clogged plumbing in sinks and showers that resulted in water accumulating in the base of the showers and sinks. Other hazards included defective electrical outlets and electrical wiring, insect infestation, holes in walls, window frames and doors and "unhealthily high levels of moisture throughout the living quarters of Morris College students," according to the documents.

The plaintiffs sustained injuries and health problems caused or worsened by the conditions, they are claiming. As a consequence of the conditions and physical injuries, the plaintiff students also claim they sustained severe mental suffering, frustration and anxiety.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs repeatedly notified college officials of the various health hazards but that college staff and administration "intentionally or negligently failed to correct" the issues, "often claiming they were unaware of the problems."

The suit closes by saying the plaintiffs demand a trial by jury for damages, which the plaintiffs allege - on information and belief - to be in excess of $55 million, "plus a separate punitive award in an amount deemed sufficient to impress upon the defendants the seriousness of their conduct and to deter such similar conduct in the future ..."

In a separate spoilation letter, Harrell Law Firm has requested the college maintain and preserve evidence - such as photographs, lists of employees and their personnel files, related emails and other types of messages, cleaning and maintenance logs and cleaning and inspection reports - that may be related to the case and that those items should not be destroyed or altered in any way.

Another document asks the college to either admit or deny: that the health hazards were acknowledged; that the plaintiffs reported the hazards; that a professional mold remediation contractor was not hired to resolve the hazards; and that there was a fatal case of meningococcal meningitis disease in 2007 that "resulted in the death of a student who resided in one of the college buildings."

When contacted on Friday, the college's attorney, Thomas Levy, of Thomas B. Levy Law Office in Columbia, said he had not reviewed the lawsuit yet and therefore couldn't comment on the case. Levy said he would read the suit this weekend and might be able to comment at the beginning of the week.

Morris College has 30 days from the time of being served to provide an answer to the complaint.