Sunday, October 9, 2011
Dershowitz kin sue over toxic mold nightmare
Their suburban dream house is a toxic nightmare.
Relatives of famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz are tangled in a nasty insurance battle over a mammoth tree that crashed down on their tony Westchester home, leaving it infested with mold so toxic that they say their young son was coughing up blood.
Glen and Amy Dershowitz — the lawyer’s cousins — say in a federal lawsuit that Travco Insurance Company of Hartford owes them more than $1 million for damages incurred when the 10-ton, 80-foot tall spruce tree fell during a storm the day after Christmas 2009 and slammed into the roof of the $1.4 million Scarsdale home they’d purchased and were planning to move into after a $200,000 renovation.
Things got so bad, they say, that one insurance company rep outrageously argued that the door to their now 11-year-old daughter Emily’s bedroom was damaged because the youngster had slammed it in a fit of anger.
“My daughter slammed the door, and that’s why it doesn’t shut and is all out of plumb? Really? That’s what you’re going to try convince me of?” said Amy, 41, a party planner.
In court papers, the insurer claims that only a small piece of the top of the tree fell onto the roof, causing “a few small punctures to the roof” and that “no water entered the dwelling through the roof ... as a result of the damage ... caused by the tree.”
The company insists the damage was repaired and that it has paid the family more than $180,000 and plans to pony up an additional $47,700.
Travco also says the policy does not cover mold damage and adds that the mold problem existed before storm -- even though the family said they had it inspected before buying the property because Amy and her son Evan, now 9, are especially sensitive to mold infections.
As the battle raged, Evan had to be hospitalized -- and doctors found toxic mold in his lungs after he coughed up blood, the family says.
The doctor issued a stern warning that the Dershowitzes should stay out of their home until the mold was completely cleaned out or risk getting “very sick,” the papers say.
“The insurance company came in, took a look at the house and reached a hasty conclusion as to the extent of the loss,” said the family's lawyer, Johnathan Lerner. “My clients deserved better.”
The family, meanwhile, has rented an apartment in White Plains.
“It’s very frustrating. We aren’t even living [in the home], but we’re paying for a gardener, we’re paying Con Ed, we’re paying the mortgage,” said Glen, 41, a financial planner.
Amy said they won't occupy their home until the clean-up is finished.
“The bottom line is I have to know that this house is safe for my child,” Amy said.
The suit is pending in federal court in Manhattan.