AUSTIN (KXAN) — On a recent trip to New Orleans with her eldest daughter, Austin resident Kristina Baehr walked by a building and, without stepping foot in it, immediately knew there was mold present inside.
“She and I would be like, ‘it’s there, it’s in there,'” she said. “That’s how sensitive we are to toxic mold and water damage.”
This time last year, Baehr was staying at a local hotel and navigating a benign tumor diagnosis. It was the latest health complication in a multi-year litany of symptoms.
The root cause? Toxic black mold, inundated throughout her family’s home.
The symptoms extended over a three year time period, beginning with migraines and ending with the benign tumor. She described the sensation of drunken-like wooziness in the middle of the day, and waking up with rashes covering her skin.
One of her sons developed sinus complications, while the other began showing signs of developmental delays. One of her daughters began experiencing erratic mood swings and anxiety symptoms — each day spending hours playing in and sleeping in a room where black mold was growing mere feet from her bed, inside the walls.
“We opened that wall and we found black mold everywhere. And then we dug through and we found a roof problem,” she said. “And it was a flashing defect — when the house was built, it wasn’t flashed properly, and so water had been coming in that wall since we had been there. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Further inspection by mold specialists revealed that, due to the flashing problem in the roof, black mold had spread everywhere throughout the house, from the kitchen and bathrooms to deep within the walls of their bedrooms.
“We know now that it was where [the kids] ate, where they slept, where they bathed and it was in the air they breathed,” she said. “So no wonder we were all so sick.”
The Baehrs had to leave their home and lost all their possessions in the process. Now, she is working to raise awareness and provide legal counsel for victims of toxic mold, one court case at a time.
Formerly employed by the U.S. Attorneys’ Office, Baehr launched Just Well Law to represent victims of personal injury cases, homing in on supporting “sick people against the companies that made them sick.” Just Well Law handles cases related to toxic exposure, military housing, medical negligence and vaccine injury, among others.
Through Just Well Law, Baehr is collaborating with attorney Bob McKee on representing victims of toxic exposure-related cases around the country. In April, McKee represented a Florida woman who was awarded $48 million after a leaky roof led to rampant mold spread and, later, a permanent illness diagnosis.
“We want to equip other lawyers to try these cases. We believe it’s not rocket science, we believe you can do it, we believe you can prevail for these families,” she said. “And we want more lawyers involved. We want to raise up an army of lawyers all over the country to help these families.”
Particularly with military families living on bases or bouncing around to different housing situations, she said she wanted to concentrate her counsel on supporting those living in these dilapidated conditions. For her, she said concentrating in on military cases and supporting those enlisted is a top priority.
“This is not just a cough or an allergy. This is serious immunological and neurological harm, that can be lifelong,” she said. “And I want to represent sick families against the people who made them sick.”