On May 3, 2010, the Philadelphia Housing Authority agreed to settle a mold contamination case for $11.6 million. In McKinney v. PHA, Angelique McKinney alleged that exposure to mold in her Section 8 apartment exacerbated breathing problems in herself and her children, Ebony Gage and Ronald Gage, and triggered an asthma attack that left Ebony Gage with extensive brain damage. U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller rejected PSA’s argument that Ms. McKinney could have moved out of the apartment or repair leaks herself, noting that the family lacked the financial ability to move or even to perform home repairs. In his denial of PSA’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Judge Schiller blasted PSA for its “deliberate indifference” for tenants’ health when it approved the home despite evidence of leaks and when it deliberately delayed the family’s move to a different apartment. The family previously reached a $2 million settlement with the companies that managed the property.
In a serious blow to companies defending claims of asbestos exposure, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court recently reversed a lower holding that a plaintiff could not extrapolate that his asbestos-related illness was causatively related to his occupational history in automotive repairs. In Betz v. Pneumo Abex Corp., Allegheny County Judge Robert J. Colville ruled that the plaintiffs’ extrapolative claim that if significant asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, small amounts of asbestos exposure can also cause mesothelioma did not meet Frye’s standards of scientific soundness. In reversing the lower ruling, Superior Court Judge Christine Donahue noted that defendants Allied Signal, Ford, GMC, and Chrysler failed to present evidence as to the mechanics of this extrapolation, that scientists are allowed to extrapolate if the extrapolation is grounded in a “sound scientific basis,” and that some of the epidemiological studies, often regarded as a “gold standard” for causation, were funded by Ford, GMC, and Chrysler.