Thursday, September 28, 2023
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County Clerk Says Courthouse Has Mold

KNOXVILLE (CN) - A county clerk says the county and its building authority are ignoring a serious mold problem in his office that caused him to develop asthma.

Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett, Jr. sued Knox County, Tenn. and the Public Building Authority of the County of Knox and the City of Knoxville in county court for breach of contract and warranty, nuisance and premises liability.

Arnett, who was elected in 2008, works in the Old Knox County Courthouse, which the building authority rents to the county , according to the complaint.

He says an April 2012 renovation of more than 250 windows stirred up mold.

"Defendant PBA's restoration and renovation of the windows of the Old Knox County Courthouse made that building 'airtight.' In addition, numerous leaks and moisture occurred and existed in the walls of the courthouse prior to the restoration of the windows and/or are currently occurring in the walls of courthouse," the complaint states. "The cumulative effect of these conditions creates an environment conducive for the growth of toxic mold."

The county clerk says his doctor diagnosed him with potentially life-threatening bronchial asthma caused by exposure to mold. One employee had to leave when she got dizzy and nauseated after the building authority moved Arnett's air conditioner, which "likely exacerbated the mold problem and created higher levels of mold spores in the air," according to the complaint.

The building authority has maintained that mold in the courthouse is "within acceptable limits" but a test conducted in January showed otherwise, Arnett claims.

"The live spore counts from the lab report obtained from the January 24 samples demonstrably indicate that plaintiff's suite of offices is contaminated with toxic levels of the mold A[s]pergillus," the lawsuit states. "Aspergillus is a highly toxic mold and upon information and belief is one of the two most hazardous molds in existence. Health problems caused by exposure to Aspergillus are well-documented."

The county clerk says live mold is probably continuing to grow in the drop ceiling and under the carpet in his offices.

Arnett seeks an order that he and his employees move to a safe work location and that the county and building authority get rid of the mold. He is represented by Darren Berg of Butler, Vines & Babb in Knoxville.

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