PEPPERELL — Nearly three years to the day one couple purchased a duplex at 20A and B Shawnee Rd. only to lose it, their health and all their possessions, they said, to toxic mold. Now, Nancy and Rick Davis will have their day in court on April 5.
Their lawsuit against the two Realtors involved in the sale of the allegedly mold-infested duplex and the realty firms they work for will go before a 10- to 14-person Lowell Superior Court jury on that date, said Nancy Davis.
The couple appeared in the Lowell court this week, as did an attorney for former owners Michael and Anne Burke, of Merrimack, N.H., to set the trial date.
Pre-trial motions will be made on April 3, said the Davis’ attorney, Robert Doyle. A verdict will be decided by a majority of the jury.
The Davis’ story has been documented by print and televised media coverage. Nancy Davis became ill with multiple types of asthma from, she said, 32 types of mold that pervaded her home.
Spores permeated everything they owned, she said, including vehicles, causing doctors to order the couple to destroy everything.
Photographs of them wearing HAZMAT suits while throwing their possessions into a trash bin on their front lawn, and stories of the Davis’ plight have generated hundreds of weekly e-mail’s from mold sufferers throughout the country. Davis has become somewhat of a vigilante in a quest for a solution.
The family is bankrupt, she said. She has no job and the effects of the fight are beginning to show in her husband’s health, she said.
“It’s been a rough road,” said Davis. “I want this thing done.
“I know there’s a mission and there’s a purpose, but do we have to go to the edge of the cliff? I guess so,” she said.
When word of their plight first made news, residents of Pepperell gathered to raise money to relocate the newcomers. She still gets support from new-found friends, Davis said.
She brought the problem to the Board of Health (BOH) in an attempt to have the house condemned so no one else could suffer from it. She had delayed that approach because of the pending suit, she said, but the board was powerless because Davis no longer owned it.
The mortgagor, Washington Mutual Bank, eventually excused the mortgage and associated nonpayment penalties and the house was resold.
Davis’ spirits were high following this week’s court appearance.
“I’ve gone to see my old house. There’s a large Dumpster in the driveway,” she said. “My last conversation with the building inspector’s office proved there is no building permit for it as of the first of January.
“I’ve been slipping,” she said, “I usually call them every week. I guess I’m somewhat of a boil.
“My son (Cameron) is doing fine. He’s gained two pounds (he suffers from failure to thrive as well as autism),” she added. “Oh yes, I’m pleased this trial is coming. I’m ready.”
Work prognosis isn’t good, however, because Davis cannot be re-exposed to mold. The asthma will be with her for the rest of her life, she said.
In addition, she said, the family’s food stamps were just canceled.
“Apparently the feds are running the program,” Davis said. “There is a national data bank they put the information into and credit you for the national average. I asked how come under the rental category they allow only $500. We’re double that.
“You can’t rent anything in Massachusetts for that little, but you can in Kansas. So I guess we have to go to Kansas?” she asked rhetorically.
“The mortgage remains excused, but the paperwork we signed with the bank had a clause allowing them to come back,” she said. “We’ve got credit card companies, the bank, MassHealth and house insurance who could all come after us. If we win the case it could be a wash.”
The Davis’ had hoped to sell their Shawnee Road home as condexes. They had a $234,000 mortgage three years ago. She found a recent advertisement that asked almost $500,000 for a duplex like theirs.
“To get out of this mess my husband would have to triple his salary without me working. We’re now part of working poor instead of middle class,” she said.
“I’m not going away though,” Davis said. “This issue isn’t going away. Something has to be done. We need mandatory real estate disclosures.
“We have nothing to lose. We’ve lost it all except for my integrity and my big mouth,” she said.
“A lot of people across (the) country with similar problems have told me they would like to get the media coverage I’ve had. I say back, ‘How many people would like to throw away everything they owned because they just wanted to buy a house?’ I’m going to go kicking and screaming,” she said.