Woman awarded $48 million after getting sick from mold in her apartment

A Broward jury, convened virtually, has awarded a Plantation woman $48 million after a leaky roof caused mold to contaminate her apartment, leaving her with a permanent, debilitating illness. It’s one of the largest awards for mold contamination in the country.

Lynette Jividen, 56, developed a host of symptoms from the time she moved into the Mar Lago Village condominium building in 2015 until she moved out less than two years later. She left the building after Hurricane Irma and after the damage done by the mold she was breathing in left her with health complications likely to follow her for the rest of her life, her lawyers said.

Through her attorney, Robert McKee, Jividen declined to comment about the case because it’s not over.

To collect the jury’s award, McKee and co-counsel David Brill still need to go after the insurance companies that were supposed to represent Florida Contractors Inc., the company that, according to the lawsuit, tried and failed to repair the roof damage causing the leak in late 2017.

Jividen was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory response syndrome, an ailment that affects all of her biological functions — the nervous system, digestive system, muscles, joints and the immune system, McKee said.

The condition is permanent, progressive, and in her lawyers’ words, “horrifically disabling.”

“Before this, she was a vibrant, wonderfully happy person,” Brill said.

She was a home health aide who volunteered with special-needs children, and loved to spend time outdoors snowskiing, boating, tubing and horseback riding.

“Now she is just truly a prisoner to an isolated environment and a devastating and progressive illness,” he said. “The way I described it in part in closing was that it’s really not living. It’s sustaining.”

Her immune system is also compromised, McKee said.

Jividen is a divorced mother with two grandchildren. She lived in the apartment alone, McKee said.

According to the lawsuit, Jividen moved into Mar Lago Village in early 2016. At the end of the year she renewed her lease. While she repeatedly complained about leaks and “water intrusion,” nothing was done to fix it. Meanwhile, mold grew.

It wasn’t until June 2017 that she tested for mold herself, according to the lawsuit. She sent the results to the building owner and management company.

Florida Contractors made more than one attempt to fix the roof, but the leaking continued, according to the lawsuit.

After Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the leaking got worse. By the end of the year, Jividen moved out.

Jividen ended up suing the building owner, ML CASA V, and the management company, ZRS Management, but those companies settled for an undisclosed amount. The roofing company, Florida Contractors, did not.

But Florida Contractors also chose not to fight the lawsuit. The company defaulted, leaving it up to a jury to decide how much Jividen should receive in compensation, and up to its insurance providers to make good on the award.

The judgment is one of the largest ever, nationwide, for a single plaintiff in a mold contamination case, McKee said.

One of the largest in Broward before this week was a $166,500 settlement reached by the county, which was sued by a former prosecutor who complained about mold in the now-all-but-abandoned east wing of the courthouse. The plaintiff in that case suffered from sinus trouble, not nearly as serious as Jividen’s health issues.

An attorney for Florida Contractors did not respond to a voicemail and text messages requesting comment. Messages left with the insurance companies were not returned.

The damage award included $10 million for expected future medical expenses, more than $1.2 million for past and future lost earnings, and $35 million for loss of capacity to enjoy life.

McKee said he expects to file suit against the insurance companies within weeks.