A Santa Barbara jury ruled against a family suing the Santa Barbara Housing Authority for chronic illnesses they alleged were caused by toxic mold in their apartment. The verdict, rendered after a seven-week trial, concluded that the Housing Authority was in fact negligent in its maintenance of the apartment but that none of the four plaintiffs suffered harm as a result of that negligence. The suit was filed two years ago by Inger Budke, a property management specialist for the Housing Authority, who claimed that the mold in her apartment was so bad that her husband and two children suffered chronic sinus and respiratory ailments. Budke lived as a resident manager at the 106-unit Shifco affordable housing complex located on the Mesa. She and her family moved out for six months.
The Housing Authority contended that it addressed the problem as soon as the Budkes notified them and made necessary repairs in a timely fashion. Attorneys for the Housing Authority acknowledged there was mold in the premises, but disputed that it was toxic. The Budkes had sought $1.2 million; the Housing Authority offered $50,000, and the ensuing trial constituted a showdown between the dueling experts. Based on the verdict, the Housing Authority had better experts, and the jury concluded that the property was not maintained in a dangerous condition during the Budkes’ tenancy.