Former SDSU student sues because of black mold


A former student is suing SDSU and the Board of Regents, saying exposure to black mold in the Berg and Bailey apartment complexes caused severe bleeding in his lungs.

Troy Christensen, a student at SDSU during the 2000 school year, said his lawyer, Gregory Eiesland of Rapid City, has notified SDSU and the regents of Christensen’s intent to sue. SDSU and the BOR have 90 days to respond.

“There are a lot of questions in Brookings about what’s going on,” said Eiesland.

“There are statutes that hold the regents responsible for the safety of the university’s buildings.”

Christensen said that a surgeon removed one third of his right lung in 2000. Christensen also claimed that his doctor determined he had a rare disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Hemosiderosis, which causes severe bleeding in the lungs. The disease is linked to exposure to mold.

The BOR’s lawyer, Jim Shekleton, said the suit will hinge upon Christensen’s ability to prove that he was exposed to the black mold and that the exposure caused his illness.

SDSU officials ordered a cleanup of Berg and Bailey halls after mold was discovered on water pipes above the ceiling tiles and near air vents in the bedrooms, commons areas and laundry rooms.

Students who live in Berg and Bailey halls say they have complained to their residence hall managers of aching heads and stomachs. But last fall, Reger said he wasn’t aware of any health complaints.

In May 2000, the university hired a toxicologist to study the the Animal Science building.

The scientists said then that the complex fit the criteria of a “sick building,” meaning that more than 20 percent of its occupants reported symptoms ranging from headaches to fatigue that cleared up after they left the building.

In October, SDSU officials said the Animal Science Complex’s heating and air conditioning system would be replaced.

At that time, Executive Vice President Michael Reger said that estimated $1.9 million project needed to be done. “We’re not doing it because we believe there is any pattern of illness,” Reger said.

Both Reger and President Peggy Miller declined to comment on the lawsuit.