Legal Claims, Expert Consultant for Mold Infestation


Details can be overwhelming

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I write mostly about how to avoid damage from natural disasters and accidents on collectibles, photos, documents, intellectual property, memorabilia etc. I talk about protecting and saving the original valuable items, making copies as part of a back up plan… what to do to save your stuff at your business. This “coaching” can be essential to your survival… and peace of mind.

But this article is about when the “phooey hits the fan” and you are in need of help. Don’t you know, also, that when you’re in the worse need of help, that help is slow in coming… slow to get resolved, especially if you’ve been damaged by a regional natural disaster and the insurance company is overloaded?

You have property and contents insurance on your business don’t you?! Well, this is a real life story when the claim process needs some extra help to get done. This information could be a lifesaver for you. It was for the client in this situation.

Small business building

Small business building

The insured’s 10 year old Mediterranean style building became infested with mold to the point of people getting sick. The moldy musty smell was easy to detect but State Farm was not accepting the claim because you couldn’t easily see it. Finally, after great effort, the mold was found to be in the building’s structure. With that finding, the insurance company declared that construction defect was present and that was not covered in the policy.

In the meantime, the building had to be emptied of its contents. The industrial cleaners, ServPro were very professional, and correct, in not handling or treating any objects that were overly valuable such as artwork, collectibles, historical objects etc. At this point, Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (FACL, Inc.) were brought into the process as consultants.

FACL, Inc is the type of firm that is

  • specialized in identifying delicate items – guiding the process
  • identifying mold growth
  • overseeing the handling of collections
  • doing surveys and assessments, gathering data for claims, making reports
  • working with industrial cleaning companies both in collaboration and as a subcontractor

From the building 80 paintings were packed and removed, 32 boxes of photos, books, letters, frames, documents, memorabilia, slides, an antique Louis Vuitton trunk. Also, there were numerous historical art objects from past travels.

Valuable trunk full of valuables

Louis Vuitton trunk was cleaned of mold

FACL, Inc. first proved that mold was present for the insurance company and the insured was able to resolve that the contents were covered in the policy. Then, as the client’s consultant, FACL provided reports of damage, treatment proposals and costs as the insurance company directed. This was an enormous service to the insured who was buried in other details and matters and made the working process with the insurance company and the insured much less adversarial. Over the next several months, hand holding for the insured and efficient administration of the details for the insurance company resulted in a satisfactory resolution for all concerned.

In the process, storage had to be arranged, special transportation needs were addressed and several other details that required handhold of the client. In the end, the valuable possessions were returned in good condition to the insured and the matter satisfactorily concluded.

The lessons to be learned:

  • Have the contents of your business insured, specifically.
  • Don’t mess around with mold. Get it taken care of.
  • For sensitive items, artwork, collections, heirlooms, etc get specialized help.
  • A conservation specialist can help you get the claim processed and resolved faster, acting as a valuable go between with the insurance company and the insured.

Appraisal questions: www.personalpropertyappraisal.com

Conservation questions: www.fineartconservationlab.com

Other insurance related matters: http://insurancepersonalpropertyassessments.com

Follow us on our Facebook pages: “Fine Art Insurance Help” and others listed on the page.

For the national preservation best seller, How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster, go to the “Products”. Free pamphlets and downloads also available.

For Museum Wax, a great easy to use product, to protect items when the building starts to shake, also, go to the “Products”

About Scott Haskins

Scott M. Haskins has been a professional art conservator since 1975. He is also author of "How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster". He may be contacted at 805 564 3438
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