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March 24, 2004 - Tenants' housing suit blames mold for illness

Saying that the Preserve at San Luis is like "a petri dish for toxic mold," two tenants now are suing the student housing complex.

Jessica D. Ritchie and April K. Sundblom, both 21, filed their lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Civil court on Tuesday, court records show.

Because of mold, the women said, they have suffered from "nausea, persistent coughing, aching joints, shortness of breath (and) fatigue" since moving into the complex in August.

They're seeking unspecified damages, attorneys' fees and a court-ordered medical monitoring program, the suit said. Ritchie and Sundblom could not be reached. Their attorney, Steve Andrews, did not answer a call Tuesday evening.

A complaint in a lawsuit tells one side of a story. Randy Rieger, the complex's Coconut Grove-based representative, could not be reached Tuesday evening.

"Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory complaints," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Web site. "Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals."

The suit blames rushed construction for allowing moisture to get into the walls, creating a breeding ground for mold.

Ritchie, Sundblom and others complained soon after about a foul odor and mustiness, which means the complex's management should have known about the problem, the suit said.

The Preserve, at Tharpe Street and San Luis Road, consists of townhouse-style three-bedroom homes, marketed to students, according to the suit.

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