Baltimore Lead Paint Lawsuit Frequently Asked Questions
Thankfully, Baltimore City's water sources and treatment centers do not have the same issues as those in Flint, Michigan. The primary source of exposure to lead in Baltimore City is lead-based paint.
Lead-paint exposure occurs when deteriorated lead-based paint crumbles, flakes, or dusts off of surfaces and spreads throughout your home and all the items in your home. Infants and young children ingest the lead simply by being in that home. Children of young age are exposed to lead-paint because they crawl then suck on their hands or fingers or place in their mouths non-food objects that are coated with that lead-dust.
If you have ever lived in an old Baltimore City home that had deteriorated chipping, peeling or flaking paint, there is a strong probability that you were exposed to or ingested lead-based paint. Even if you did not live in a house with those conditions, you were probably exposed to lead-based paint if you visited and spent substantial time in a house with deteriorated lead-paint. A careful analysis of your residential history, medical records, and records for your residential and visitation homes is necessary to determine whether you were exposed to lead-based paint.
It is not possible to tell if someone suffers from lead poisoning simply by looking at them. You may appear to be a normal, healthy child, teenager or young adult, but have serious brain damage due to lead exposure. Determining if someone was poisoned by lead takes careful investigation and case development, a process with which we are familiar.
Yes, your lawyers can collect the necessary records for you. Most lead paint lawyers will do this at no risk to the victim. The first step is a review of medical records. The dangers of lead paint have been known for decades.
To address the issue, some states identified "at-risk" areas. All of Baltimore City is labeled as an area where children are "at-risk" of lead poisoning. In those designated areas, children will automatically receive blood-lead testing at their 12 and 24 month well-child visits. Depending on the results and when the blood-lead testing was done, parents may not even have been notified if their child's blood tested positive for lead. For example, we have learned of many instances where parents were not notified of their children's lead poisoning because the child's blood-lead level was below 10 micrograms per deciliter, and at the time of the testing the Centers for Disease Control's level of concern was a reading of 10 micrograms per deciliter or more.
Once it is confirmed that you had lead in your blood, you must undergo expert evaluations from qualified experts. These experts can use methodologically sound practices to measure the impact that lead poisoning has had on you. These evaluations include a battery of neuropsychological and vocational testing, and an assessment of your educational and vocational past.
Keep in mind that it is possible for several children to live in a home, but only one of those children to suffer lead poisoning. Just because you were lead-poisoned does not mean that your siblings were also lead poisoned. This also means that just because your sibling was not lead poisoned does not mean that you too were not poisoned. If you want to find out for certain, contact our office and we can help you get the answers you need.
The overwhelming, undisputed scientific evidence is that there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood. At different points in time, the Centers for Disease Control has published different thresholds which it identified as the "level of concern." However, these levels were not measures of safety, but were pragmatic cut-off points to deal with the volume of lead-poisoning cases that existed at the time. The Centers for Disease Control recently lowered its level of concern to 5 micrograms per deciliter. Permanent neurological brain damage can occur with exposure to less than 5 micrograms per deciliter, and there is abundant stock of published, scientific literature to prove it.
It has been estimated that 95% of the housing stock in Baltimore City that was constructed before 1950 contains lead paint. This is problematic because most of Baltimore City consists of old housing stock, much of which has not undergone gut-rehabilitation renovations or lead abatement. Chances are, if you live or lived in an old row-home in Baltimore City, your house contains or contained lead-based paint on at least one component.
However, Maryland courts prohibit a person from deducing that their house contained lead paint based solely on the date the house was built. For this reason, it may be necessary to complete x-ray fluorescent (XRF) testing of your home or past residence to determine whether that property contained lead paint and contributed to your poisoning.
An additional challenge arises if the house that you suspect poisoned you has been renovated since you moved out, or has been demolished altogether. In such situations, all hope is not lost. Sometimes, historical lead-test results can be located. Other times, careful case development and examination of the facts of your case can establish sufficient circumstantial evidence to get your case in front of a jury.
This has been done with success in the past, but needs the dedicated attention of an experienced lead-paint attorney to help you get across the finish line, which we can offer. By way of example, one of our attorneys had a case where the adult plaintiff lived in a house in Reservoir Hill as a child, but that house was gut-rehabbed after she moved out. XRF testing of more than 15 locations inside of her childhood home all came back negative for the presence of lead due to the gut-rehab. No historical positive XRF tests could be located.
To make matters worse, as a child, she spent time at more than twenty neighborhood friends' houses in Reservoir Hill, making each of those houses a potential culprit of her lead poisoning, and making it almost impossible to rule out which house caused her injuries. Worse yet, several of the houses she visited had chipping paint, meaning those houses could also have exposed her to lead paint. Despite overwhelming odds, the attorney at our office successfully navigated the minefield of bad evidence and convinced a judge that the plaintiff's childhood house was a reasonably probable source of her lead poisoning. This resulted in the judge denying the landlord-homeowner's motion for summary judgment motion, and a six-figure settlement for the adult plaintiff.
Collectively, victims of lead-poisoning in Baltimore City alone have collected more than 300 million dollars ($300,000,000) in settlements and verdicts. Individual cases have resulted in victories of as much as 18 million dollars ($18,000,000), and as little as fifteen-hundred dollars.
The recovery is based on several factors, including whether the presence of lead in the home is being proven by direct or circumstantial evidence, whether contemporaneous blood-lead levels were recorded while you resided in the target home, whether there is a history of escalating blood-lead levels in the target home or just a one-off blood-lead level therein, whether you visited or lived at other reasonably probable sources of your blood-lead levels, whether there are other environmental or genetic factors that could account for your cognitive, behavioral, and vocational deficits, and whether the defendant-landlord or property owners are or were insured.
Insurance is a tricky issue for several reasons. First, unlike motor vehicle insurance, landlords are not required to purchase insurance to protect their tenants in case those tenants are injured in the property. Second, insurance companies in Maryland began adding lead exclusions to their home-owners' policies in the 1990s. A lead-exclusion in a home-owner's insurance policy means that the insurer does not have to provide coverage for any injuries that someone suffers in the property if that injury was caused by exposure to lead. There is no blanket set of rules that someone can use to decide if the house they lived in had insurance or whether the policy for that home had a lead-exclusion.
There are ways to uncover the existence of insurance for properties you lived or visited decades ago, and whether those policies had a lead-exclusion, and we know how to do it.
If our search does not reveal the existence of an insurance policy or uncovers that the policy had a lead-exclusion, your ability to recover any money will depend on how deep the pockets are of the defendant landlords and property owners. Sometimes that could mean no recovery or a nominal recovery. In other cases, if the landlord is independently wealthy or still owns properties, you have substantial leverage in compelling a settlement on favorable terms.
A special set of circumstances arise if you lived in public housing provided for by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. If you, your children, or anyone you know lived/lives or visited/visits public housing that had/has chipping paint and that person has a confirmed blood-lead level, you must contact an attorney immediately because there are strict statutory limits to when you have to notify the local government of your claim. If you fall into this category, you cannot wait until your twenty-first birthday, and must contact an attorney right away!
Normally, if you are injured in Maryland you have to file a lawsuit within three years of the event that caused your injury. There is an exception to that rule for people who are injured before they turn eighteen years old. The law considers those people to be minors. For a minor, the three year clock does not start ticking until you reach the age of majority, which is 18 years of age in Maryland. That means that a child who was exposed to or poisoned by lead paint has until his or her twenty-first birthday to file a lawsuit. Waiting even one day after the twenty-first birthday, however, would prevent the lawsuit from moving forward.
Time is of the essence, because all of the people and companies who caused the lead-poisoning have to be identified before the victim turns twenty-one. Sometimes, the identity of the landlord, property owner or property manager who is at fault is not immediately known, and it may take time to discover their identity. If the identity of these people or companies are not discovered until after the victim's twenty-first birthday, the opportunity to recover a judgment from them is lost. For this reason, it is imperative to speak to an attorney immediately if you suspect that you or a loved one was exposed to lead paint or suffers from lead poisoning.
Call 800-553-8082 for a free consultation and evaluation of your lead paint claim or to answer any questions you have regarding such claims. You can also get a free case review online. Remember, time is of the essence, but the law is on your side.