The Maryland Court of Appeals just affirmed a lead paint verdict against the Baltimore Housing Authority. This is yet another case where a governmental entity sought refuge of the Local Government Tort Claims Act. Thankfully, the Baltimore Housing Authority could not avail causing brain damage to a child via this loophole, at least not in this case.
Facts of Case
The plaintiff lived in a Baltimore Housing authority for two years after her birth in 1995. She was exposed, she alleged, to chipping and peeling lead based paint. Her lead level was 13 mcg/dl. When I defended these cases in the ’90s, we would have rolled our heads at that number. Now we know better. A level like this can cause real injury and can bring a large jury verdict in Baltimore.
The story from here is familiar. The plaintiff’s mom noticed classic lead-related injuries manifested themselves early: attention issues, delays in learning to read, and behavioral problems. Plaintiff’s experts testified that she lost 5-7 IQ points.
The Baltimore Housing Authority put on its usual witnesses – Patrick Connor, Joseph Scheller, Joel Morse, etc. – to argue that the girl was not injured by lead-based paint.
The jury did not buy in, awarding $160,000 in future lost wages (which seems low) and $1.1 million in non-economic damages. Under Maryland’s cap for non-economic damages, this portion of the award was reduced to $530,000. Why so low? The injuries occurred in 1995 when the cap was much lower. Continue reading