SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Alekman DiTusa and other law firms held a news conference to discuss recent filing of class action lawsuit “relating to poor environmental conditions at the courthouse.”
According to a news release sent to 22News from the office of Alekman DiTusa, LLC, a class action lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in Hampden County Superior Court. Alekman DiTusa, LLC, Connor & Morneau, LLP, and Thomas A. Kenefick, III, Esq., joined with representatives from the state legislative delegation, members of the Hampden County Bar, and Courthouse personnel outside the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse located at 50 State Street in Springfield at 1 p.m.
“The Complaint includes a request for injunctive relief seeking to have Court enjoin the Defendants from ordering employees, litigants and members of the general public back into the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse until an independent environmental study can confirm that environmental condition of the Courthouse will not cause people to experience adverse health effects.
The Complaint also seeks the appointment of a special master to oversee the remediation efforts in order to ensure that the health and safety of the general public is adequately protected. “Alekman DiTusa, LLC
The lawsuit is holding the Trial Court responsible for failing to properly address the health issues over the years at the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse. State Senator Eric Lesser joined the law firms and the many courthouse employees for the announcement of this lawsuit.
The plaintiffs are Hampden County Register of Deeds, Cheryl Coakley-Rivera and Judith Potter who had worked 30 years at the courthouse and retired in 2006, after suffering health issues including MS and high levels of mercury.
The lawsuit seeks a request for injunctive relief to stop the court from ordering employees and members of the public back into the courthouse until an independent environmental study can confirm that the courthouse will not cause people to experience negative health effects. They also want answers on the previous reports that had been done.
“What kind of mold, what kind of bacteria people have breathing in? We have a right to know that before we go back into this courthouse.” Joseph Pacella, president, Hampden County Bar Association
“That’s what we are looking for in this complaint. Full and complete disclosure of all the reports, all the studies, all the air quality tests, all the financial reports. Because quite frankly we believe there is a lack of transparency going on as well.” Laura Mangini, Attorney representing plaintiffs
Mangini expects they’ll hear testimony from them in the coming weeks. The courthouse will remain closed until at least Tuesday while the mold remediation crews continue their work, which Mangini says has been extended, due to how widespread its become.
The courthouse was constructed in 1976, which includes four stories and a lower level. The lower level is used for parking and mechanical/utility space. The four floors are used for court rooms, temporary holding cells, department offices and support space.
Environmental reports on Springfield courthouses
The courthouse is used by the following:
- Hampden County Superior Court
- Hampden Probate and Family Court
- Springfield District Court
- Hampden County Registry of Deeds
- Hampden County District Attorneys’ Office
- Hampden County Probation Office
- Hampden County Law Library
- Hampden County Bar Association
- Court Services Center
According to the Complaint, the plaintiffs are demanding a trial by jury.
Statement by Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey and Trial Court Administrator John Bello:
Within a day of learning about the mold problem in the Roderick Ireland Courthouse, the Trial Court closed the courthouse and contracted with an environmental testing firm and a licensed mold remediation company to begin work in the building. The mold remediation contractor surveyed all areas that showed the presence of a mold-like growth and determined that chemical remediation was the most effective approach. The remediation process has been thorough, detailed and comprehensive in the scope of the work. The remediation process is nearing completion and the Trial Court is expecting an environmental testing report within days. The Roderick Ireland Courthouse remains closed while this work is being completed. The Trial Court will determine the ability to reopen based on environmental test results and the conclusion of mold remediation and cleanup efforts.
In July of 2021, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), together with the Trial Court, contracted with a consultant to conduct a detailed assessment and develop recommendations for necessary upgrades to building systems at the Springfield Court Complex at 50 and 80 State Street in Springfield. The assessment will investigate mechanical, plumbing, and envelope conditions at 50 State Street and mechanical, building automation systems, and water infiltration issues at 80 State Street. The goals of the assessment are to document existing system conditions of the court complex, identify deficiencies and relevant lifecycle implications, recommend necessary repairs and upgrades, and provide an implementation plan and order of magnitude cost estimates for the improvements. The consultant began work two weeks ago.
The consultant will synthesize the information gathered and summarize an evaluation of the overall building conditions to provide an overview of issues to be addressed. The consultant will develop prioritized recommendations to address the identified deficiencies through necessary repairs or upgrades for the building systems, which will be used for planning and decision-making regarding funding and other key resource allocation.
The Trial Court has a collaborative relationship with the Executive Branch and the governor. The Trial Court has worked closely with DCAMM on capital projects on state-owned buildings and on the Court Capital Master Plan. Bond funding is approved by the Legislature and the Executive Branch authorizes the spending. The Trial Court, in its 2017 capital funding request, asked for $158,000,000 annually to fund the 20-year capital master plan, but only about half that amount has been authorized annually since that time.