Former student-athlete sues KU, claiming mold in dorm room made her sick

photo by: Journal-World file photo

The Jayhawker Towers on the Kansas University campus are pictured on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2010.

A former student-athlete is suing the University of Kansas because, she says, mold in her dorm room made her sick.

The woman had a golf scholarship and moved into the on-campus Jayhawker Towers apartments in fall 2015, the beginning of her freshman year.

Throughout September and October of that year, Laine R. Evans “became increasingly ill,” her lawsuit says. The suit says she developed persistent sinus and upper respiratory symptoms, night sweats, fatigue and nausea, and that, because of the ongoing symptoms, she had her tonsils removed when she went home to Wichita for Christmas break.

“Unfortunately, the symptoms returned as soon as she went back to the Jayhawk (sic) Towers to start her second semester,” the lawsuit says. “Upon resuming residence in the Towers she began to experience chronic upper-respiratory congestion, coughing, nausea, vomiting, headaches, muscle cramps and (chest pain.)”

In its response to the lawsuit, KU said Evans exaggerated her illnesses and denied that the university was at fault for them.

“Nothing the University did or failed to do caused or contributed to plaintiff’s alleged injuries or damages,” attorneys for KU wrote. “Plaintiff’s alleged injuries and damages are not of the nature or the extent alleged.”

After returning to KU after Christmas and again becoming ill, Evans and her parents concluded that something in her environment was causing her to get sick, the suit says.

In February 2016, Evans’ mother emailed a golf coach and requested that her daughter’s room be tested for mold, then asked an unnamed “family friend” to give the room “a quick inspection,” according to the suit.

The friend found what he believed to be lint in the bathroom air vent, then opened the vent to find the vent cover “caked with mold” and mold inside the air duct, as well, according to the lawsuit. A similar inspection found mold in another air vent.

A few days later, Evans got a blood test to see if she had mold allergies, and she tested positive, the lawsuit says.

“The defendant University negligently failed to make the premises safe for housing and violated the implied warranty of habitability owed Ms. Evans,” the lawsuit said.

Evans incurred more than $7,000 in medical bills for her mold exposure, and will continue to suffer noneconomic damages, her lawsuit said.

The lawsuit asks for damages in excess of $75,000. In a subsequent filing, Evans’ lawyer said her actual damages totaled $315,000.

Among other arguments, KU also said that the university lacked proper notice of the conditions alleged in the lawsuit and denied the accuracy of significant portions of emails to the golf coach.

Evans was on the KU women’s golf team in 2015-16, according to the roster on the KU Athletics website. She transferred to play at Wichita State University her sophomore year and remains on the golf team there, according to Wichita State rosters.

The suit was initially filed in January of this year in Sedgwick County, but moved to Douglas County District Court in April. According to court records, a conference between the parties and Judge Paula Martin was scheduled for Thursday.

KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson declined to comment on the lawsuit’s allegations.

Evans’ attorney, Randall Rathbun, did not immediately responded to a request for further comment on Thursday.

First opened in 1969, according to the KU buildings directory, the four-building Jayhawker Towers is located on campus at 1603 W. 15th St. Tower A — where Evans lived, according to her suit — was renovated in 2009.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd

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