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Military families file lawsuit; say housing project made them sick

Families stationed on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe have filed a class action lawsuit after battling illnesses they say are related to dangerous exposure to chemicals, mold, construction debris and dust in and around their assigned homes.

Ohana Military Communities and Forrest City Residential Management are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed April 3 by Hawaii attorneys Kyle Smith, Terrance Revere and Malia Nickison Beazley.

The lawsuit alleges breaches of contract, violation of the landlord-tenant code, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The families are seeking full disclosure and damages. Forest City successfully petitioned to transfer the case to U.S. District Court and is petitioning the judge to dismiss it.

Cara Barber, whose own family was affected, is the lead plaintiff and spokeswoman for the military families. She said hundreds of “frightened” and “deeply concerned” military families who live — or have lived — at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Forest City housing contacted her after they learned she filed a complaint with HUD in 2011.

Barber’s daughter, Abby, was 14 months old when they moved there. Abby was a healthy child but, Barber said, her daughter began to experience chronic respiratory problems. In 2008, after two years there, Abby’s military pediatrician diagnosed her with intermittent asthma caused by the exposure to environmental toxin.

Barber asked Forest City to allow her family to move to housing away from the ongoing demolition but was denied. In the complaint, Barber says, the military contractor discriminated against her disabled child by failing to satisfy a request for reasonable housing.

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