Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Sick Schools
For years, mold has been a major problem in Broward County Schools. But now, the school board is considering spending thousands of tax payer dollars to fight a legal battle it's already lost...against a teacher who's already proven she got sick on the job. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has more in tonight's Carmel on the case.
WSVN--After Hurricane Wilma. The Broward School system spent millions of dollars repairing roofs on its schools. But before that - the district had just finished a multi million dollar project to replace roofs and clean up mold contamination caused by leaks that had gone on for years.
Ann Morrison: "Well as one of the witnesses testified...when it rained outside - it rained inside."
Teacher Ann Morrison and her attorney Richard Berman are fresh from a victory in connection with mold contamination at riverside elementary school. But it is a bittersweet victory.
Richard Berman: "It lasted about two and a half years longer than it had to."
In 2002, Morrison filed a workman's compensation claim based on respiratory problems and hives she suffered as the result of years of exposure to mold at school. Her lawyer says it was a minor claim.
Richard Berman: "She was asking for 4 months of disability pay and her medical care to be covered and that was it."
It was a claim that followed Seven News reports that first exposed toxic molds growing in Broward Schools - including Riverside. And it was a claim that followed a critical grand jury report of the school district's failure to protect students and teachers from mold in leaking schools. Yet Morrison's claim was automatically denied by the school district.
Richard Berman: "They did no investigation. They took no statements. They interviewed no one."
Berman says from a case that would have cost 13 thousand dollars plus her medical expenses....it became a case that will now cost taxpayers more than 100 thousand dollars to resolve in court...Even though Berman offered to avoid an expensive battle.
Richard Berman: "And they ignored me."
So after world experts were hired - twenty depositions taken - thousands of documents reviewed - and a three day trial...A judge has ruled Ann Morrison's health problems are related to her repetitive exposure to mold and damp conditions while working at Riverside."
Ann Morrison: "Yes, there's a sense of betrayal. Not only about them fighting me on the claim, but the fact that I worked in an environment like that for 15 years."
A spokesman says the school district is still "...Weighing its options..." in the case and may appeal...So it "...Could not "discuss the case any further."
Carmel Cafiero: "This court decision could be a sign of things to come for the school district. There are multiple lawsuits pending over health problems developed by both teachers and students. Problems they believe are directly related to sick schools. Carmel Cafiero 7 News."
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE