Meet Georgia’s “Mold Man”

How does an attorney, husband and father of four children come to have the illustrious title of "Georgia's Mold Man" added to his credentials? If you're Steve O'Day, it's just another day in the office.

How does an attorney, husband and father of four children come to have the illustrious title of “Georgia’s Mold Man” added to his credentials? And how is mold making headlines in today’s courtrooms with new terms like Stachybotrys atra? If you’re Steve O’Day, it’s just another day in the office.

Steve is the partner in charge of the Environmental Law Practice Group at Smith, Gambrell & Russell. For more than 20 years, his practice has focused on environmental litigation and consultation. His experience and his unique belief that corporations and environmentalists can successfully work together have gained him recognition, as well as a litigation practice solely focused on environmental issues.

Toxic molds have been causing serious health conditions in humans for hundreds of years. These dangerous types of mold can exist in damp environments in our home or workplace without us ever knowing it. “Air, water and waste are the most pressing issues facing environmental activists today,” says O’Day. “Ironically, these are the same, pressing issues facing corporate America.”

At one time, it was thought that bacteria or viruses were responsible for many of the health problems within buildings. Today, many home and workplace-related ailments are being attributed wholly, or in part, to fungi and mold. This has led society to be much more aware of indoor air quality issues.

“Corporations have learned, or will learn, that environmental risk avoidance and compliance is significantly less expensive than environmental litigation,” says O’Day. His practice is bustling with environmental audits. Businesses look to experienced environmental firms like SGR to receive confirmation that they are environmentally compliant. The true environmental visionaries are looking past compliance and are asking, “What more can we do as a corporation to protect the environment?”

And some cases are heading to the courts. SGR attorneys recently represented one of three defendants, a manufacturer of a wood treatment chemical, in a groundbreaking toxic mold claim in Michigan. The plaintiff claimed personal injuries — specifically, mold-induced asthma — from exposure to alleged toxic mold on pressure-treated wood. However aggressive pursuit of the plaintiff’s past medical history, and retention of pulmonary and mold experts to rebut the plaintiff’s claims, resulted in a much-reduced settlement.

“I get to spend time with real people doing real business — assembly lines, product quality checks, working alongside a construction foreman. That’s the fun part, as well as the basis for building a foundation for a successful legal defense,” says O’Day.

While Steve helps set precedents with national environmental laws, he also keeps his focus on international environmental laws. “The majority of my clients are global businesses, so I need to know the laws facing them in the United States, as well as their factories and manufacturing facilities in other parts of the world,” says O’Day.

Steve serves or has served on numerous environmental advisory boards in local governments, associations and organizations, including The Governor’s River-care 2000 Task Force, Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce Water Quality Task Force, Solid Waste Task Force, and the award-winning, nationally recognized initiative of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Vision 2020. He earned his B.A. degree, summa cum laude, in political science from Furman University and his J.D. degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1979.

Steve’s passion for the environment extends to his family, too. His eldest son is an environmental activist and his daughter recently graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in environmental studies. Steve and his family are active environmental enthusiasts, often enjoying canoeing, cycling or hiking in the North Georgia mountains.