By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In January 2005, Kramer wrote a particularly testy e-mail to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, an organization that certifies mold-cleanup companies — a group often targeted by people alleging that the “poisons” and “toxins” were not fully removed from their homes and businesses.
Kramer’s beef was that the hygiene association had invited Kelman to blog during a Web seminar on mold toxicity. After Kelman participated in the blog exchange of ideas, Kramer wrote to the association: “Is it the goal of the AIHA to promote the safety of mankind, as your code of ethics states? Or is the goal of the AIHA to limit the financial liability of those who support your organization? ... May your children rot in hell, along with all the other innocent children you are hurting.”
Kramer admits this wasn’t “my finest writing,” but says the statement was aimed at the AIHA, not at Kelman.
Kelman saw it differently — much differently. His gut reaction to her prayer that “children rot in hell” — coming from a woman who often got worked up to the point of explosive intensity — was that she actually might show up at his lab in Washington state to somehow hurt his children or those of his colleagues. Kelman recalls that the lab’s scientists “ended up talking to the police about what we could do.”
Not much. Then, in March, Kramer escalated things, disseminating a press release through a public-relations Web site, PRWeb, in which she alleged that Kelman had “altered his under-oath statements” during cross-examination in an Oregon mold case.
An attorney in the Oregon case had suggested in court that the Manhattan Institute had paid $40,000 for Kelman’s original co-authored mold study for ACOEM. The charge was untrue. Kelman and his partners had written that key study for free. So, Kelman replied in the Oregon courtroom, “That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard.”
Things got confusing because, in an earlier case, in Arizona, Kelman had indeed testified that he was paid by the Manhattan Institute — but, again, not for the big study. The institute paid him to write the simpler, layman’s translation of the research Kelman and his partners had produced for free.
But in a sly move in the Oregon courtroom, attorney Kelley Vance asked Kelman to read aloud his testimony from Arizona. Kelman read aloud: “And that new version that you did for the Manhattan Institute, your company got paid $40,000, correct?” And Kelman answered, “Yes, the company was paid $40,000 for it.” The exchange was about the later, layman’s translation.
Kramer picked up on “the company was paid $40,000 for it” to make her clearly untrue claim, in her PRWeb press release, that Kelman had changed his testimony under oath when he called the idea that he had been paid “ridiculous.”
Within months, Kelman brought forth a libel claim against Kramer.
Kelman’s lawyer, Keith Sheuer, alleged that because of Kramer’s press release, his client had “suffered loss to his reputation, shame and mortification.” Kramer tried to halt the lawsuit, but both San Diego Superior Court and the California Courts of Appeal disagreed with Kramer’s allegation that scientist Kelman was suing her in order to prevent her from airing important public matters.
In 2005, Courts of Appeal Judge P.J. McConnell awarded Kelman attorney’s fees and allowed his libel case to go forward, asserting that Kramer intended malice when writing the press release. “... A simple investigation of Kelman’s testimony” would have revealed that he did not change his story under oath, Judge McConnell wrote.
Of Kramer, the judge said, “These declarations reflect a person who, motivated by personally suffering from mold problems, is crusading against toxic mold and against those individuals and organizations who, in her opinion, unjustifiably minimize the dangers of indoor mold.”
Today, Kramer says, “I feel like I am in a high-stakes poker game and I have gone all in.” Scientist Kelman is at a loss as to why she continues. “This is the U.S. and she has a right to say whatever she wants,” he says. “But she has to pay the consequences. I don’t like things spread all over the Internet that aren’t true and obviously hurt my reputation — which is everything to me.”
About a year ago, Kelman, through his attorney, Sheuer, offered Kramer a way out. Sheuer sent a letter of apology to Kramer’s attorney, Lincoln Bandlow, which, if Kramer agreed to sign it, would end Kelman’s lawsuit. They asked Kramer to agree to admit, “I was wrong and my accusations were unfounded,” and then sign it. “I sincerely regret any harm or damage that my statements may have caused.”
Kramer wouldn’t sign it. She isn’t taking any deal.