Naked City

'Mold Queen' Bites Back

Melinda Ballard, dubbed the "Mold Queen" by the Texas Assoc. of Business BACPAC in the campaign of ousted state Rep. Rick Green, filed a libel suit Nov. 6 against Farmers Insurance Group and its spokesman Bill Miller, claiming that Miller made false and damaging statements about Ballard in an October Statesman article. Specifically, Miller told the daily that Ballard was responsible for "whipping up public hysteria" about mold-related insurance claims to advance her own interests and that the suit she brought against Farmers last year was fraudulent.

Those statements, her court petition reads, "falsely indicate that Melinda Ballard committed a felony crime" -- insurance fraud as defined in the Texas Penal Code. In June 2001 a Travis Co. jury awarded Ballard a $32 million judgment against Farmers, stemming from a mold claim she filed for her Hays Co. home. The case is currently on appeal. But, as part of the verdict, Ballard's libel action argues, jurors found that she hadn't made any false representations to Farmers and that the insurer's conduct could not be excused by anything Ballard may have done. Miller's subsequent statements, Ballard's petition argues, were made as "retribution."

Ballard has since founded the Policyholders of America, a homeowners advocacy group that currently claims more than 73,000 Texas members. She told Naked City that she intends to donate any money she is awarded in the current suit to the Texas Dept. of Insurance, to create and fund an independent and voluntary panel under TDI's purview that would review homeowner/insurer disputes.

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