Jacksonville, Fla. – The unexpected death of a Jacksonville pre-teen has led the boy’s mother to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the family’s apartment complex. Michele McGrady claims that toxic mold and asbestos led to the death of her son, 12-year-old Darius Thompson.
McGrady’s family lived in the Village of Baymeadows apartment complex for more than two years without any problems. That all changed last year, when McGrady awoke to find her son dead in his bedroom. Autopsy results show the child suffered a fatal asthma attack in the middle of the night, most likely brought on by mold and asbestos. McGrady claims that her son had not suffered an asthma symptoms in more than six years, so she had no warning that an attack might be brought on.
Asbestos, a fibrous mineral material, was widely used in the construction of homes and buildings until 1980, when its use was regulated after findings of its dangers became well-known. The apartment complex, which records show was built in 1969, would have been a prime candidate for asbestos use. Although it provides many safety aspects, such as being heat and fire resistant, asbestos can lead to the development of mesothelioma, a rare cancer affecting more than 3,000 people each year.
When asbestos-containing materials begin to break down, the small fibers are released into the air when the material is disturbed, or just in its natural process of deterioration. Once in the air, they are easily breathed in by anyone in the vicinity. Long-term exposure to asbestos causes these fibers to build up in the mesothelium, a membrane which lines the organs, including the lungs and heart. Mesothelioma can develop when the fibers affect the workings of the individual cells, leading to overproduction.
Mesothelioma can stay latent within the body for decades, developing slowly but not showing signs of problems until its progression has reached advanced stages. Unfortunately, it is during this time when the cancer is the least treatable and usually inoperable, leaving its victims little time left with their families.
Several months after her son’s death, McGrady learned that asbestos was present in a neighboring apartment, and suspected its presence in hers as well. The landlord told her it was false, and she went along with his explanation.
“As our apartment complexes get older, the owners and landlords have to take responsibility,” said Mike Roberts, McGrady’s attorney. “Asbestos and mold aren’t nuisances to be swept under the rug.”