Mold in home sold by UFC star Chuck Liddell sickened 9-year-old girl, lawsuit claims

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell testifies during a civil trial against Cuesta Title Co. in June 2015.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell testifies during a civil trial against Cuesta Title Co. in June 2015.

A lawsuit filed against retired Ultimate Fighting Championship star Chuck Liddell alleges that an Atascadero couple’s young daughter suffered mysterious nosebleeds, sore throats and other health problems after moving into a bedroom “riddled with mold” in a home sold by the former light-heavyweight champion in 2015.

Liddell, his real estate agent and a San Diego-based mortgage company are facing allegations of breach of contract, breach of implied habitability, negligence, fraudulent concealment trespass, civil conspiracy, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and others in relation to an Atascadero home he sold to the couple.

A San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that several of the couple’s allegations were not relevant to the case, though the judge is allowing them 30 days to amend their claims.

The ruling — though favorable to Liddell — means the case could go to trial on the remaining allegations if a settlement is not reached.

Roy Ogden, attorney for Liddell, was in depositions Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, his office said. An attorney for USA Realty & Loans declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

An attorney for the couple did not return a request for comment.

The lawsuit filed in December states that Kenneth and Haley Smith, who own a small business in Atascadero, first attempted to purchase the home on Via Colonia Court in 2014. After that deal fell through, Liddell’s real estate agent, Dustin Ward, offered the Smiths a month-to-month rental agreement, the lawsuit states.

Once that was in place, Ward continued to pressure the Smiths into buying the home, and the Smiths expressed interest if Ward could provide them a loan, according to the complaint.

“The next thing Mr. and Mrs. Smith knew, Ward advised that he had gotten them a loan and they were in escrow,” the lawsuit reads.

Former Atascadero resident and UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

They signed a purchase agreement, but soon realized they could not afford the property and gave notice of their intent to vacate in July 2015.

Before they left, however, they allegedly discovered a pre-existing water leak in a laundry room that shared a wall with the bedroom of the Smiths’ 9-year-old daughter. The girl had been “sleeping and playing for months in a room that was riddled with mold,” which the Smiths claim Liddell and Ward knew about prior to the couple’s first attempt to buy the property.

“(The Smiths believe) that the property had been in escrow prior to their involvement, but fell out of escrow when the property failed to pass an inspection, perhaps because of the leak and the mold,” the lawsuit says.

Fearing exposure, the family packed up all belongings except for their daughter’s, who had begun having “frequent, unexplained bloody noses and sore throats since they moved into the property,” the lawsuit reads.

The girl experienced other serious medical problems, the Smiths allege, due to her clothes being stored in a dresser next to the moldy wall. The family said that, as of December, the girl continued to be under the care of several doctors.

After the Smiths brought the mold to Ward’s attention, Ward allegedly ridiculed them for their concerns. After they hired a lawyer, the family was served with an eviction notice by Liddell.

Before entering an agreement to transfer the property back to Liddell, the family hired a mold specialist who allegedly found the girl’s room with a high concentration of spores in the room and in the air, despite concluding that someone had attempted to purify the room with an air scrubber.

The Smiths are seeking an unspecified amount of general and punitive damages as well as recovery of attorney’s fees.

In his ruling Tuesday, Judge Donald Umhofer found no evidence to support the Smiths’ claims of intentional infliction of distress, civil conspiracy and battery, which had been challenged by Liddell and Ward. The judge did, however, uphold the family’s allegation of interference with contractual relations and said they may pursue punitive damages against Ward, the agent.

A case management conference for the remaining allegations in the lawsuit is scheduled for Aug. 30.

Liddell, a Cal Poly graduate and former Mustangs wrestler who now resides in Los Angeles County, won the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in 2005. He was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2009 and retired a year later, following three consecutive knock-out losses.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1