• Court of Appeal of Louisiana: Circumstantial Evidence Sufficient To Prove Causation
  • May 5, 2015 | Author: Patrick S. Schoenburg
  • Law Firm: Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP - Fresno Office
  • Reddoch v. Parish of Plaquemines

    Twenty five former employees of the Parish of Plaquemines sued for alleged personal injuries resulting from mold exposure while working in Parish emergency facilities. The evidence presented at trial consisted of the testimony of the plaintiffs, who viewed or smelled mold in the buildings, and a single report by an environmental consultant. That consultant, based upon two tape lift samples, confirmed the presence of seven types of fungi in the buildings. Plaintiffs alleged that as a result of the exposure, they suffered from headaches, asthma, allergies and sinus symptoms. No testimony from a physician on the issue of causation was presented at trial. The Court awarded a total of $280,000, with individual awards ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. The Parish appealed, arguing that the circumstantial evidence presented by plaintiffs was insufficient to prove causation. The Court of Appeal began its analysis by reviewing prior case law.

    Plaintiffs in a mold personal injury case must establish causation on five different levels: (i) the presence of mold, (ii) the cause of the mold and the relationship of that cause to a specific defendant, (iii) actual exposure to the mold, (iv) the exposure was a dose sufficient to cause health effects (general causation), and (v) a sufficient causative link between the alleged health problems and the specific type of mold found (specific causation).

    Watters v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 08-0977, pp. 16-17 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/17/09), 15 So.3d 1128, 1142-43.

    Despite this seemingly high standard and the lack of medical experts to support plaintiff’s claims, the Court of Appeal held that the testimony of the plaintiffs, along with a single environmental report, was sufficient to prove causation. The Court of Appeal noted that a determination of causation was a factual finding that should only be disturbed by an appellate court if “it is clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous.” The award by the trial court was affirmed.