The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held several years ago that the Blackfeet Tribe’s sovereign immunity was waived regarding the issue of black mold in tribal housing, and that the lawsuit by homeowners against the tribe could proceed.
The court also held, however, that the homeowners could not sue the United States as its sovereign immunity had not been waived.
The Blackfeet Tribal Court said recently that the Tribe’s housing authority is responsible for repairing or replacing as many as 153 moldy homes.
I doubt that the housing authority has the money to do much about the issue.
The homes were built by the Blackfeet Tribal Housing Authority in the 1970s and ’80s, using federal Housing and Urban Development money.
In the years since they were built, repeated tests have found toxic black mold and suggested that many of the people living in the homes have related health problems.
Martin Marceau, the lead plaintiff in the case, still lives in one of the moldy homes.
Browning Montana’s high water table makes it a perfect location for black mold, according to the lawsuit. Homes such as Marceau’s were built using wooden foundations treated with arsenic and other toxic materials as preservatives.
University of Montana students interviewed residents of the homes and found that 71% of them reported mold-related symptoms and that 37% of the children surveyed reported asthma — a condition frequently associated with mold exposure — a rate about four times the national average.
The Blackfeet Tribal Court said the tribe is responsible for full, fair, and just adjudication of the issues, regardless of whether the federal government chips in to cover the costs.