Miller, a prominent Richmond developer, says Jones' allegations are unfounded. After she complained, Miller says, he offered to buy back Jones' condo, but she wouldn't agree. The amount she's demanding in court is "totally inappropriate," he says, "so it's a matter of principle to me now."
"I need to defend my reputation," Miller adds.
City officials say they have received no complaints about the property, which sits on Porter Street in Manchester. Public works spokeswoman Angela Flagg says mold "may be a legal issue" but it's not a building code violation.
Mold is also a contentious issue, and in recent years has become a popular cause for litigation. No national standards exist for mold levels. For many people, the presence of mold has no effect, while others may develop serious allergies or asthma.
Jones, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia Commonwealth University, moved from Minnesota to Richmond last fall to begin work at Virginia Commonwealth University. She bought one of the 80 new condos in the Old Manchester Lofts in October 2004, according to the lawsuit, but because of the mold never moved in. She has, however, visited the condo several times.
On Oct. 30, 2004, Jones took a friend to see her condo. They were both "overcome by a very strong chemical odor" that left Jones coughing and burned her eyes, the suit says.
In an investigation into the heating and ventilation unit above Jones' condo, the suit says technicians hired by Jones found "significant areas covered with green and black mold," citrus deodorizers in the ceiling beams and later, "a large, mushroom-like structure" growing on a joist. A Nov. 19 sampling of the air in Jones' apartment found an "enormous" spore count, the suit continues, and black mold could be seen growing on the hallway wall, outside the condo. Miller says he too hired a firm to investigate, and it found fewer mold spores inside the condo than in the outside air.
Now, Jones says she has health problems, including asthma because of the toxins released by the mold, the suit alleges. "She has a lifetime disease," says Jones' lawyer, David S. Bailey. "She'll be in line to get the flu shots with the old people." Melissa Scott Sinclair/i>
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