Navy’s liability at issue in court cases for moldy military housing

Posted at 8:28 PM, Sep 13, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-13 20:28:43-04

New developments are coming out of Norfolk Federal Court stemming from NewsChannel 3’s investigation into moldy military housing.

Marine wife Shelley Federico was the first to sue Lincoln Military Housing for negligence, and Thursday a federal judge heard arguments from attorneys on both sides of her case to determine if the Navy may be held liable in mold cases.

More than 200 families came forward to NewsChannel 3 over the past year, sharing their stories of mold and water damage in Lincoln Military Housing, with many of them expressing their desire to sue the company for negligence.

Now, all potential lawsuits hang in the balance, waiting on Judge Robert Doumar to decide if these cases will be heard in federal court, or in Norfolk Civil Court.

The determining factor comes down to the Navy and their involvement in privatized military housing. Are the Navy's interests at stake if these families sue Lincoln, who managed all these homes? Would the federal government be held liable in some way?

To try to determine that, Judge Doumar asked Lincoln to provide a copy of their 2005 Operating Agreement and Ground Lease with the Navy.

NewsChannel 3 requested those documents through the Freedom of Information Act back in November, but the copy we eventually got was mostly blacked out, with all the important information redacted.

The Navy said it contained "commercial or financial information" from Lincoln that was "privileged and confidential, and releasing this information could cause them significant competitive harm."

Lincoln did provide a full version of the contract for Judge Doumar's court, but only under seal, which bars the public from seeing it, and bars attorneys from discussing it.

After four hours of arguments Thursday, Judge Doumar said he will wait to make a final ruling, providing no answers for families still having problems with Lincoln to this day.

A new post showed up on the “Spouses of Naval Station Norfolk” Facebook page as the hearing was going on.

"We signed a lease last week for military housing in Willoughby Bay...we saw a plastic covering on the wall in the foyer and what looked like black mold covering that portion of the wall. I don't want to move into a dirty moldy home. I have a baby, but I don’t want to be homeless either."