Like thousands of people across America, the Alkinani family bought a home expecting that the home was “safe to live in”. But, when neighbors told them that the home had been used as a meth lab, they decided to contact their local health department. The health department admitted that the home had once been used as a meth lab, but informed the Alkinani family that the home had been decontaminated and was perfectly safe for them to live in. The Alkinani’s even got the health department’s “all-clear” on paper. However, when a local news station KSL TV 5 had the home tested, they discovered that the home was, in fact, still full of toxic chemicals.
The meth lab testing by KSL 5 confirmed what their neighbor had told them – their home was full of toxic chemicals – chemicals that make their home “unsafe to live in”. Fearing that further exposure to the chemicals in their home could make them seriously ill, they chose to move out of their home, rather than face the risks to their health. When the Alkanini’s told the health department about the test results on their home, the health department reacted by placing a sign on their home warning others that the home was unsafe.
The Alkinani’s immediately filed a lawsuit against the the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, alleging that the health department was negligent in protecting them. Court documents showed that the SLVHD knew that parts of the home were still contaminated and inspectors for the department had also approved a cleanup plan – a plan that didn’t comply with health department guidelines.
The Alkinani’s lawsuit never went to trial. A Utah law known as “Governmental Immunity” shields the health department, a government agency, from being sued, even if they are guilty of doing what they have been accused of doing. The Alkinani’s say that the cost of decontaminating their home is about $40,000, more than they can afford to pay. Their home will likely go in to foreclosure. The Alkanani family spent many months without a permanent home to live in after moving out of their contaminated home. Family members then helped them to secure permanent and toxin free housing.
Source: Court: Dujanovic, Debbie, “Family can’t sue health department over meth house”, 8/1/08, accessed 11/13/08, http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=309&sid=3914333
Note from Meth Lab Homes: Once their home goes in to foreclosure, it can then be sold by the bank who owns their mortgage. As in every other state in the country, banks are not required to tell the next buyer about the home’s history, nor are they required to clean it up before they sell it.