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    Monday, May 27, 2024
     

    Branford Manor residents reach $12.25 million settlement in mold lawsuit

     
     
    The Ledge Light Health District received a large number of mold complaints from residents of Branford Manor Apartments in Groton. The residents brought a class action lawsuit against the owner, Related Companies, which settled for $12.25 million that was announced on Feb. 27, 2024. (Scott Ritter/The Day)
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    In this file photo, Latasha Burage points out black mold Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, on the bedroom doors at her Branford Manor apartment in Groton. She and other residents brought a class action lawsuit against the owners, Related Companies, which settled for $12.25 million in February 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    In this file photo, Andrew Leary, center, and his wife Louann, residents of Branford Manor, hold up photos of the mold in their apartment during a Town Council meeting the Groton Senior Center Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Residents brought a class action lawsuit against the owners, Related Companies, which settled for $12.25 million in February 2024. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
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    Groton ― A class action lawsuit brought by Branford Manor residents who complained about mold and unsafe living conditions at the federally subsidized housing complex in the City of Groton has been settled for $12,250,000.

    An affiliate of the Related Companies, which owns Branford Manor, and attorneys for Branford Manor residents announced the settlement on Tuesday.

    According to court documents, the settlement will be divided up among 1,396 residents, including children, who were part of the lawsuit. Individual payments totaling $5.3 million will be based on the length of time each tenant lived at Branford Manor from 2019 to 2022.

    For example, an adult who lived at the complex for three years will receive $6,000 while their child who lived there for the same time would get $3,000. A couple with two children who lived at Branford Manor for three years would receive $18,000.

    There will also be enhanced payments totaling $4 million to those who suffered serious illness, injury or property damage. A panel of special masters will determine the amount of each enhanced payment.

    Attorneys for the tenants will receive $2.6 million.

    “The residents of Branford Manor, I believe they have been well-served by the settlement, and the plaintiffs believe the settlement is fair, and we appreciate Related’s willingness to work in good faith to make it possible for us,” said Latasha Fisher-Harris, the first-named plaintiff, who spoke up about her concerns with mold and maintenance issues when she lived at Branford Manor.

    “Throughout this process, the number one priority of all parties has been the health, safety, and well-being of Branford Manor residents,” Jeff Brodsky, Related Companies’ vice chairman said in a statement. “We have worked together to prioritize on-site work to ensure both remediation and root causes were thoroughly addressed, while providing substantial resources and programming for residents. We appreciate the hard work that went into reaching an acceptable settlement.”

    “The residents of Branford Manor are well served by this settlement,” Amity L. Arscott and David N. Rosen, attorneys for the residents, said in a statement.

    A news release issued Tuesday by the residents’ attorneys and Related said the settlement “does not assign blame, wrongdoing, or liability.”

    “The families who brought the case made multiple allegations concerning conditions at Branford Manor. The owner, an affiliate of the Related Companies, denied each of the allegations,” the release states. “The settlement provides that all of the residents of Branford Manor will have an opportunity to claim compensation from funds contributed by the owner.”

    In the complaint in state Superior Court in Waterbury, the tenants said they filed the lawsuit over “dangerous and unlivable conditions” at the 442-unit complex. The plaintiffs include residents of Branford Manor and residents who “have been displaced on account of the unlivable condition of their apartments.”

    Their allegations include that Related failed to “abate known mold infestations and chronic environmental issues,” “make repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition,” keep common areas clean, maintain “in good, safe and working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating and other facilities and appliances,” and “remedy excessive moisture, humidity and dampness, among other listed issues.

    The complaint alleged they suffered physical injuries and illnesses, emotional distress, damaged possessions, medical costs, educational losses among children, and “financial losses from lost time from work and loss of future earning capacity.”

    Related Companies denied the allegations.

    Branford Manor residents have voiced their concerns with mold and living conditions at local meetings, press conferences with legislators, and to the media.

    In 2022, the Groton Town and City Councils voted to hold the owner of Branford Manor in default of a tax incentive agreement. The owner of Branford Manor, an affiliate of Related Companies, undertook a remediation project.

    Branford Manor residents have inspired legislators to introduce state legislation to develop indoor mold standards for housing, which was passed last year, and proposed federal legislation to address mold in federally subsidized housing.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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