Former tenants sue Irvine Company for alleged mold in Newport Beach
Claims range from skin sores to brain injuries, with firm calling them "demonstrably false"
Former renters at a luxury apartment complex in Newport Beach are suing the Irvine Company over alleged exposure of toxic mold.
Seventeen former tenants of the Newport Bluffs have filed a lawsuit against the locally based development giant, alleging exposure to toxic mold resulting in severe health issues, with claims ranging from skin sores to brain injuries, the Orange County Register reported.
Compensatory damages sought by the plaintiffs were not disclosed.
The complaint is backed by former Irvine Company employees, who allege the firm’s practice was to keep mold problems hidden from tenants and to make only cosmetic repairs.
The Tuscan-style complex at 100 Vilaggio east of MacArthur Boulevard contains more than 1,000 luxury apartments, with resort-style pools and in-home washers and dryers. Rents range from $2,865 to $7,670 a month.
Catherine Duboc, a former tenant and pharmaceutical sales professional, alleges that her exposure to mold at Newport Bluffs left her with debilitating health problems, including mental fog and an inability to work.
Attorney Alan Bell, representing the former tenants, accuses the Irvine Company of prioritizing profits over people, and claims that the company had a practice of hiding mold issues from residents.
The former tenants argue that they were misled about the presence of mold, the resolution of water intrusion problems and the nature of construction work at Newport Bluffs.
The Irvine Company vehemently denies the allegations, asserting that there is no evidence of elevated mold exposure.
Jennifer Line, regional vice president of Irvine Company Apartment Communities, called the claims “demonstrably false” and emphasized the company’s commitment to resident safety.
“We are committed to the health and safety of our residents and have a policy of promptly responding to water intrusion issues,” Line said in a statement.
The tenant lawsuit reveals a history of mold-related issues within the Irvine Company’s properties.
Former employees, including Maintenance Supervisor Marvin Matamoros, allege that the company neglected proper remediation measures. Matamoros claims he was instructed not to use the term “mold” and was threatened with termination for challenging the company’s practices.
The extent of the mold problem at Newport Bluffs was confirmed by Matamoros, who said he found extensive mold in some apartments but was denied permission to relocate tenants or conduct proper remediation.
The Irvine company settled a previous lawsuit against a general contractor related to construction defects and water intrusion at Newport Bluffs in 2014 for $15.5 million. Line said Irvine Company spent $28 million to remedy construction defects and water intrusion at the complex.
The new lawsuit sheds light on a broader pattern, with similar allegations emerging from other Irvine Company properties, including its former luxury complex at 1221 Ocean Avenue complex in Santa Monica.
Former Irvine Company paralegal Nicole Osborne, in a whistleblower lawsuit, claimed the company engaged in fraudulent practices and failed to address mold-related health risks in 2018.
— Dana Bartholomew