Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Proceed in Lead Paint Lawsuit Against Property Owner

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently reviewed a case involving a property owner’s liability for exposure to lead paint. In Christian v. Levitas (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 1, 2016), the plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant after blood tests revealed elevated levels of lead while residing at the defendant’s property. The defendant filed a motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert from testifying as to medical causation and the source of lead exposure. The trial court granted the motion to exclude, as well as summary judgment against the plaintiff due to a lack of expert testimony as to causation.

In the plaintiff’s previous appeal, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals initially affirmed the ruling, finding that the plaintiff’s expert lacked experience administering IQ tests relevant to the mental injuries the plaintiff claimed to have suffered as a result of lead paint poisoning. However, the Maryland Court of Appeal vacated the judgment and remanded for reconsideration pursuant to its holding in Roy v. Dackman, 445 Md. 23 (2015). As a result, the matter was again in front of the Court of Special Appeals.

In Christian, the plaintiff had lived for nearly two years as a toddler on the defendant’s property, which contained chipping, peeling, and flaking paint. The plaintiff’s blood lead levels were also elevated when he was living at the property. The plaintiff’s expert testified that his medical injuries had been caused by exposure to the lead-based paint at the defendant’s property. His opinion that lead-based paint was present at that property was based on circumstantial evidence of the age of the home and the presence of lead paint on the exterior of the property.

To prove that a defendant’s property caused a plaintiff’s lead exposure, the plaintiff must establish that the property contained lead-based paint and that the lead-based paint at the property was a substantial contributor to the plaintiff’s exposure to lead-based paint. If a plaintiff relies upon circumstantial evidence to prove the presence of lead-based paint, he must rule out other reasonably probable sources of lead exposure in order to show that it is probable that the defendant’s property contained lead-based paint. In Christian, since the expert relied on direct evidence of the presence of lead paint on the defendant’s property, rather than circumstantial evidence, the court found there was no need to rule out other probable causes of exposure. The court therefore reversed the trial court’s ruling precluding the expert from offering his opinion.

In addition, the court explained that an expert witness who testifies regarding a medical injury must base his or her opinion on reliable knowledge, skill, and experience, but the expert is not required necessarily to be a specialist. In Christian, the plaintiff’s expert had experience evaluating and treating patients for lead poisoning in the Baltimore area and had testified in many previous lead paint cases. The court found that he was clearly qualified by knowledge, skill, and experience to render a medical causation opinion. Accordingly, the court reversed summary judgment and allowed the plaintiff to proceed with his case.

Lead paint cases can be nuanced, often requiring experienced representation to present the facts and evidence coherently. No matter how complex the litigation, the personal injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. have the trial skills and resources to help you pursue compensation after an accident. We represent individuals throughout Maryland in premises liability claims, auto accident cases, medical malpractice actions, and more. To speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Addresses Discovery Issue in Lead Paint Suit, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 31, 2015

Maryland Court Evaluates Circumstantial Evidence in Lead Paint Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 12, 2016

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