Family sues after brown recluse spiders invade home

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by Chris Nagus / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on April 30, 2012 at 10:06 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 31 at 6:08 AM

(News 4 Investigates) -- It’s not uncommon to find a spider inside a house in Missouri or Illinois. But if you have brown recluse spiders inside your home, they can be a dangerous threat. A bite from a brown recluse spider can lead to serious health issues - including kidney failure - depending on how much venom is injected. 

A St. Charles County family says they lived with the brown recluse threat for approximately four years. Brian and Susan Trost purchased a home in Whitmoor Country Club in October, 2007. The Trost family says the home was a dream come true, but problems started to surface after they moved into the house

“It was shortly after we moved in they started bleeding out of the walls,” Trost said, referring to brown recluse spiders.

The Trost family tells News 4 the spiders appeared throughout the house, with a heavy concentration in the atrium area leading to their finished basement. Susan Trost remembers an incident where their 4-year-old son started yelling, “spider, spider” after spotting a brown recluse on the couch.

After contacting pest control companies they were unable to eradicate the infestation. The Trost family contacted Dr. Jamel Sandidge at the University of Kansas, who’s is considered one of the leading brown recluse researchers in the nation.

Sandidge said the bite from a recluse is, “not going to kill you, but will make you wish you were dead.”

Sandidge says the most severe problems occur in victims that are under the age of 16, and over 55. According to Sandidge, most bites occur when a brown recluse wanders into a bed, in shoes or any place where they accidentally come into contact with humans.

Sandidge says the spiders are not considered aggressive, but they move very fast.

The Trost family snapped photos (see above) of some of the spiders inside their home. The spiders are distinct with an unmistakable violin shape on the back.

After discovering other problems with their home, including the spider infestation, the Trost family filed a lawsuit against the previous owners David and Tina Gault. The Gault family attorney says his clients never saw the spiders, and were honest on their sellers’ disclosure. The attorney said the family sold the house because they were downsizing with two children going off to college.

The attorney also said the Trost family was allowed to have as many inspectors as they wanted prior to purchasing the home. The Trost family says the inspectors missed problems because they were concealed. Only after they moved in did the spider problem surface, the Trost family says.

The lawsuit resulted in a five-day jury trial in St. Charles County. Dr. Jamel Sandidge was called as an expert witness for the Trost family.

Sandidge visited their home on Gillette Field Close and estimated the infestation at 4,000 to 5,000 spiders. Sandidge told News 4 it was difficult in his opinion to believe the previous owners did not see spiders when they lived at the house.

Both homeowners had State Farm Insurance at the time of the trial. State Farm provided the defense for the Gault family. The Trost family told News 4 their legal bills amounted to over $100,000. A judgment was awarded to the Trost family for $472,000, but the case is currently under appeal.

“There can be no worse condition of a property than to find out after you move in there is a brown recluse infestation,” Brian Trost told News 4.

The Trost family still owns the house, but moved out last winter fearing for the safety of their four children.

The family says the infestation has led to emotional challenges over the past four years. Because of the safety risk, they even limited the number of activities inside their home, especially when it came to allowing other children at the house.

Brown recluse spiders are difficult to eradicate because their perched legs allow them to walk over most pesticides. The Trost family says they had the attic insulation removed from their home, along with the insulation in some of the walls. In addition to chemicals, they had a powder sprayed in the attic space to kill the spiders, but the problem persisted.

On moving day the Trost family took precautions to make sure there were no “traveling” brown recluse spiders. They had their furniture wrapped, and left outside in freezing temperatures to kill off any potential stragglers.

Dr. Jamel Sandidge told News 4 he’s seen both old and new houses have brown recluse infestations. He says there’s no reason why one house might be infested over another, and it’s possible to have a spider infestation in one house, but not the house next door.

An attorney for the Gault family suggested the brown recluse spiders might have entered the home after the Trost delivered their furniture. The attorney says the spiders may have traveled in a POD storage unit that was delivered to the house. The Trost family calls the notion “ridiculous” and has documentation showing the POD was never delivered to their house. Brian Trost says they didn’t want the POD delivered because of the spider problem, and didn’t want to introduce any additional belongings into the house after they realized there was a serious problem.

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