Campbell v. DiSabatino

CONCLUDED

Oral Argument
11/14/07 – 

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Summary

Case Description: On October 20, 2000, Petitioners moved out of their furnished apartment and into a single family home owned and managed by Respondents. Shortly after taking their personal furniture out of storage and moving in, the Petitioners noticed a musty smell in the house. Petitioners discovered stagnant water in the basin of a whole house humidifier that was not functioning. After removing the humidifier and discarding it, Petitioners complained to Respondents about the musty smell. On November 29, 2000, Respondents hired ServPro to clean the air ducts in the house. On December 18, 2000, Petitioners notified PSA in writing that the musty smell persisted. In addition, Petitioners advised Respondents that his doctors considered the situation unhealthy. Petitioners wrote again a few days later, but received no response. On December 28, 2000, the Petitioners moved out, leaving all of their possessions in the house.
In February 2001, Respondents brought an action in Justice of the Peace Court seeking summary possession and back rent. Respondents prevailed. The Petitioners filed an appeal, but later dismissed their appeal with prejudice. After retaining counsel in January 2003, they amended their complaint to allege negligence, negligence per se, and other claims all arising from the physical harm that they suffered as a result of the mold in the rental unit. The Petitioners identified a standard of care expert, but the expert failed to provide a report by the date set in the trial court's scheduling order. As a result, the trial court granted Respondent’s motion to exclude the Petitioner’s expert. Thereafter, the trial court granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that a standard of care expert is required in “mold” cases.

Proceedings Description: In this appeal the Supreme Court of Delaware decides whether tenants, who allegedly suffered damages from mold in a rental home, must have a “standard of care” expert to establish landlord's breach of duty. The trial court granted landlord's motion for summary judgment based on that premise.

Outcome: The Supreme Court of Delaware agreed that the Respondents were entitled to summary judgment, but for a different reason-the tenants failed to provide expert evidence as to the cause of the mold. A landlord has no duty to remediate mold created by the tenants' conduct or possessions. Here, tenants failed to provide competent evidence that mold in the rental unit was caused by any of the rental unit's systems, alleged design defects, or other structural problems relating to the dwelling. Accordingly, we affirm.

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/de-supreme-court/1317239.html

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