<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Mold Misery - Insurance Issues - Injustice and Burying of Truth





Insurance Nightmares


Thank you for sharing your experiences with insurance claims for mold.  I am going to rant a bit but perhaps this will help you.  First off, however, I would like to say that on the deepest level of my being, I believe that everything happens for a reason.  If I had not been through what I have been through, I would probably not have suffered nearly as much, but I also would not have learned enough to help others.  This said, whatever the worthwhile harvests of my journey, it does not exonerate those who have contributed to the problem rather than the solution.  This is the rub.

In the last few weeks, two people close to me and several more a little more distant have developed severe responses to mold.  One is a consultant in health care.  She became ghastly ill while cleaning her air conditioner.  She has moved but she moved to another large apartment complex in the same city and it would seem it has the same problems as the previous place.

Another, someone who first consulted me many months ago about a strange array of health challenges, found mold in her bathroom.  Knowing what I have been through, she contacted me immediately for advice and then proceeded very logically and appropriately.  She had a very qualified mold tester evaluate the situation; she requested that her landlord remediate the property; and she moved out (temporarily) to avoid further risk to herself.  Both of these individuals were already compromised so further exposure to a dangerous situation would probably have been fatal.  They both lived in rented properties.

My best friend, whom I mentioned yesterday, owns her home but it is believed the mold infection stemmed from her stay in that famous San Francisco hotel so moving is not really the issue.  In each of these cases, the potential for an insurance claim for health exists and probably there is also the potential for a law suit.  Several of you have written about your preparations for litigation; to-date, no one who has contacted me has won a law suit.

My lawyer, who withdrew last week because of conflict interest (with the insurance company), claims to have settled many mold law suits, but none ever went to trial.  The insurance industry will spend practically any amount to avoid a settling a claim and even more to make sure they win every trial.  This has nothing whatsoever to do with facts or the merits of a case; it is entirely about money.

If the facts were clear and civilization were as it could be and should be, a single phone call to a landlord, builder, or insurance company would result in an immediate response and attempt to remediate.  For the landlords, it is actually in their interest to maintain their properties.  It is better for the physical structure of the building and better for the tenants.  It is also better for the entire neighborhood and work place because one of the characteristics of mold is that it takes advantage of opportunities to grow.  It does this in a variety of very clever ways, but for the most part, it depends on air movement for dissemination.  Once mold is activated, it can generate such an elaborate feeding system that the moisture does not even have to come from the original property.  So, as is being discovered in New Orleans and much of Texas, mold really is a community issue, not a much narrower challenge to one family.  It's important to recognize this because it makes the behavior of those responsible for remediation, whether FEMA or State Farm or some other company, all the more unconscionable if prompt and effective responses do not take place.

It is not for me to counsel someone on the merits of a law suit, not on what the benefits might be nor whether or not the effort is justified, but I urge those who are contemplating such action to consider what I have previously refused to discuss.

Where health is concerned, the first objective ought to be to protect the quality of life for yourself and those for whom you are responsible.  To win a large settlement, one generally has to suffer a lot or lose someone you love or prove that the consequences of your mold exposure have resulted in permanent damage.  I waived a health claim because I was told that the defense would demand lumbar punctures.  I now realize that they never could have forced this on me, but my lawyer and I were standing outside the courtroom where I literally had one or two minutes to decide whether or not I would pursue damages because the judge had instructed us to make an immediate decision.  I was then fined $1000.  I can assure you that writing a check to the insurance company was one of the most agonizing and emotionally toxic experiences of this entire ordeal.

The injustice is simply astounding but mold is really a David and Goliath drama.  To put this in perspective, let me tell a bit more.

The Timeline

I had lost a year of my life to chaos:  flood, adjusters, contractors, construction odors and mess, tedious demands by the insurance company for ever more monumental proofs, ill health, and ultimately a crisis with my finances and career that stemmed from losing control over time and energy.  Keep in mind, I was at the bottom of the learning curve and had not yet discovered a cure much less conquered the air quality issues in my house.

I did not rush out and file a law suit.  I explored all avenues of settlement, submitted mold test results to the insurer, and tried to organize sensible meetings to reach a settlement.  Only three years later, when the statute of limitations was running out, did I reluctantly file a lawsuit. 

First Result

The first response was an interrogatory with a list of questions that would literally have taken years to answer.  In the first wave of legal shenanigans, in addition to being fined, I lost many claims.  Among other things, not only will I not be compensated for treatment or whatever long-term consequences there have been and might still be, but I cannot address health.  In short, the reason for remediating the property is not that mold is hazardous but that it doesn't belong there for real estate reasons (as opposed to medical concerns.)

Since my saga began, I have listened to many other stories.  For instance, the daughter of a friend of mine was ticketed for driving under the influence.  Her fine was $450.  I didn't break any laws or damage any telephone poles, or smash up anything.  I had been pouring my life savings into what has become an endlessly voracious blackhole.  This is why I say to others:  take a walk.  Get out of the situation and let others chase you and try to force you to pay your rent or mortgage, but save yourself.

Second Court Debacle

On the same day I gave up the chance to make a claim for damage to my health, I also gave up the right to a claim for lost income because, I was told I would have to supply the names and addresses of every client—in the United States of America.   Incredulous, I said to the judge that the reason some people consult with alternative practitioners is that they want their issues to remain confidential.  I actually shipped all my records overseas to make sure that not a single client would ever be compromised by anything happening in my personal life.

Was this paranoid?  I don't think so because one day my attorney told me that the defense had requested permission to video tape everything I have in storage.  I asked her exactly what the purpose of this filming venture is and I called the manager of storage units to ask if they had any experience with such demands. 

"Discovery" is a very broad term and the judge said I had given up my right to privacy when I filed a law suit.  I said, "I never gave up the right to my clients' privacy."  I expected that the lawyers understood this perfectly, but much as they use "privilege" to conceal a heap of relevant information, the rule purportedly does not extend to people who counsel others on matters other than the law.  I frankly could not believe what I was hearing, but the judge was adamant.

Despite this massive capitulation to pressure and injustice, the defense still demanded copies of all emails to anyone and everyone, names of friends and people I talked to on the telephone, names of hotels where I stayed going back many years, even names of people with whom I had discussed personal issues.  I asked my lawyer what they were trying to find out.  She always said "anything they can use against you." 

I tried to find the line between harassment and discovery.  I tried to define what is invasive and what is realistic.  Can they video tape boxes or do they have the right to open the boxes and film what is inside.  The answer was always that they can do whatever they want, and they will do this because they want to wear me down.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with fairness or truth.  It has to do with financial warfare.

Hiding Something?

For instance, when a close friend died many years ago, I looked for answers I could not find in normal places.  I went to people who specialize in death and dying, monks, psychics, channels, you name it.  They included all such inquiries as part of my "medical history."  I kept asking why and the answer was not at all what I expected.  It had nothing to do with the possibility that I might have had a preexisting mold infection:  the preexisting condition they hoped to establish is that I am crazy and that I have been crazy since before moving into the present house. 

How can I put this better?  If I seek input or understanding from someone who "hears voices," it's quite possible my mind was not in order long before mold.  No one cares whether or not I was influenced by what I heard or what use I made of different insights and perspectives:  I was simply not normal a long time ago.  I therefore did not comply with these requests because I found them invasive and irrelevant.

The point is:  there is no limit whatsoever to the scope of the investigation so I basically had to draw my own lines and say where my privacy begins.


Before mold, privacy began at my property line.  In the nearly six years I have been in my present home, I have had never had a single dinner party; but I have had a nearly endless parade of realtors, insurance adjusters, contractors, "experts", lawyers, mold testers, and others coming in and out.  They park themselves down and begin their work, sometimes using my desk, my phone, my bathroom, and sometimes even my computer (obviously not with permission) so when I tell people to save themselves, I really mean, unless you just happen to like the scruffy people insurance companies send to generate reports, you really don't want a lawsuit.

Some people may say I am thin-skinned.  I might agree, but until you have had someone come into your home and use your computer to look at illegal material on the internet, you have no idea how thick skin needs to be to tolerate what I have through.  I was gone for 45 minutes and my computer was upstairs where no remediation was being done.

Insurance Issues and Power

The hardest part of the mold experience has not been my health but the insurance company.  I am a professional in the alternative health world, but a total novice where law and insurance are concerned.  I am reasonably comfortable dealing with illness and absolutely certain that there are cures for everything.  One just has to find the cure.

From early on in this process, I have viewed my odyssey as the microcosm of the macrocosm.  Shortly after I moved here, there was a flood.  I call this the "O Ring Chapter" because there was a known defect with the washing machine but the installer did not address it.  While no astronauts died as a result of this carelessness, one beloved dog and four enchanting birds are now in heaven.

Next, there was an earthquake and then the house across the street burned down.  Then, there was 9/11 and then the massive unraveling of our Constitution and of the belief that this country is ruled by people and for people.  Our country seems to be obsessed with power and the extent to which power can prevail.  So, when I say my life has been nothing but a miniaturized version of a bigger situation, I am saying that while insurance companies purport to charge premiums and issue policies so that when something goes wrong, the problem will be righted, preferably in a friendly and prompt manner, nothing is farther from the truth.

Likewise, the government has the option of using taxes to lay waste to foreign countries or provide education, healthcare, and countless other services for its own citizens.  If we doubt what our government is actually doing, ask any Gulf War veteran what happens when he reports a medical problem or ask anyone in New Orleans for an opinion of FEMA.  This is the macrocosm.

Insurance companies can relieve suffering or add incalculably to suffering.  Actually, I think that is a bad choice of words.  They calculate precisely how to add to suffering because the goal is to wear you down— and they will pay adjusters and lawyers to harass to save making good on a claim.  Then, they do exactly what the government does:  they spin.  Officially, 99% of mold claimants are whiners and complainers, meaning that their problems are imaginary.

Whiners and Complainers

Before we become involved in a situation, we don't really know what will happen.  One of the questions in an interrogatory was whether I regretted buying the house.  Of course, I answered "yes", but this also is used against me because it is construed to mean I fit the profile of a whiner and complainer.  You never get to say what you want.  In depositions, they ask they questions; and if you ask, "When are you going to ask something about mold," they either say they will get to it or they move to strike.  They try to make sure your story is never told.

TV shows like Frontline and others have shown that insurance companies avoid investigating.  For instance, when adjusters or inspectors would come to my house, I would try to show them known problems, but they would say, "I don't need to see that."  The question then arises as to whether you can force them to go into a crawl space.  If you don't, there will be nothing in the report about the crawl space.  They will then insist that the extent of the problem is what they observed, but they deliberately fail to observe.  The claimant thinks his side of the story will eventually come out, at least in the trial.  Not so, they will use the files they have to move to dismiss, insisting there is no problem.  The process is hugely time consuming, burdensome, and intentionally defrauding.  Likely as not, the court will rubber stamp most of what passes through the alleged halls of justice and the plaintiff will never be permitted to say one word.


My advice to anyone contemplating a law suit is to decide very early on whether or not you are an Erin Brockowitz because if you are not, you are completely ill-equipped for the bulldozing you are going to face.  I'm an idealist and I miscalculated.  I thought that if I said "mold", the insurance company would rush over to address it.  I was laboring under the false belief that they didn't take my reports seriously but they would take a lawsuit seriously.  Wrong again.  They took me so seriously that they stonewalled to prevent setting any precedents.

There may be better lawyers and better judges and perhaps even better insurance companies somewhere, but the bottom line is still:  save yourself.  The system couldn't care less about you.  When you understand that, you will know where you stand and perhaps make better decisions than I did.  This said, I might still have the potential to be a real thorn in the side of this dirty business of shafting innocent people so I might be the designated one here.

I might also say that just because my case is going so badly doesn't mean that it will always be this difficult for others.  Judgments have been awarded.  My ex-lawyer has settled a few cases but when I listened to her describing the settlements, I nearly barfed because even the largest settlements were distributed so thinly that they did not really right the wrongs.  How can I put it more clearly?  If a family loses one child and has another who is seriously ill and if their house has to be remediated or burned down, a few hundred thousand is not going to stretch far enough, especially after the lawyer takes a significant piece of the pie.


It's a Sunday and I tend to be more philosophical on Sundays.  In my hugely interesting life, I have forged wonderful networks with people who share common visions for the future of our Planet.  When I go to international conferences on alternative health, I feel totally connected with the dedicated people working with AIDS in Africa or cancer in India or now mold.   I always seek to see the bigger picture.

Humans in this world live in constant danger of losing their connection with Nature.  Our homes are not built with natural materials.  Our weather patterns are changing.  Our immune systems have been compromised by vaccines, mercury toxicity, fluoridated water, and probably also genetically modified food.  In this bigger picture, I see a challenge to survival and a real danger that mold is better equipped to survive than people.  I have said elsewhere on this site that mold will have the last laugh.  There is mold on the Mir Space Station.  Mold is evidently more mutable than we are, but we must recognize its function and limit its turf to what needs to be decomposed, which at the moment does not include me or my house nor hopefully you or yours!

At moments, I see windows to the future and where this journey ends; I can even see some of the scenery along the way.  In the meantime, my goal is (1) to raise awareness of the issues, (2) to reveal the resistance to truth which is intentional and inhumane, and (3) to show what measures can reduce vulnerability to mold infection.

With blessings!

Ingrid Naiman
1 October 2006






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