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Former Environmental Protection Agency attorney Marla Brin visited doctor after doctor and underwent tests for Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia before a doctor linked her muscle pain, mental confusion, and fatigue to “sick building syndrome” from possible toxins located within Waterside Mall, the former home of EPA headquarters, where Brin worked in the early 1990s. When Brin finally received the diagnosis and sued building owner S.E.W. Investors in 1998, a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled her suit was time-barred under a three-year statute of limitations. Earlier this month the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed the decision in a precedent-setting case, stating the clock didn’t start running under the discovery rule until Brin “received, or with the exercise of due diligence could have received, expert medical advice that the defective air quality was a plausible cause of her injuries,” according to the opinion from Senior Judge John Steadman. Brin’s attorney, Marc Fiedler of Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, believes the case will have wide-ranging implications for toxic-tort cases involving not only sick buildings but also exposure to other toxins in the home or workplace that can cause conditions that are difficult to diagnose. More than 225 EPA employees reported burning eyes, headaches, or other symptoms to an EPA nurse shortly after renovations began at Waterside Mall in the late 1980s, according to a lawsuit from five other EPA employees that resulted in a $948,000 judgment from a Superior Court jury. Waterside Mall, at 401 M St. S.W., became one of the most well-known sick buildings in the 1990s, especially because it was the headquarters for the federal agency that establishes air-quality standards.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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