Property owners, as well as other businesses and individuals, may generally be held liable for a personal injury caused by their negligence. In a February 24, 2020 lead paint case, the plaintiff succeeded on her Maryland personal injury claim against the owner of the home in which she lived. The defendant subsequently filed an appeal for review by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
The defendant in the case was formerly in the business of purchasing and leasing rental properties. In 1994, the plaintiff’s mother moved into a house owned by the defendant, which he claimed had been completely renovated. The plaintiff had lived at the property with her mother from her birth in 1997 until 1998, when they moved out. During their stay, the plaintiff’s mother testified that she saw chipped, peeling, and flaking paint throughout the house and in places accessible to the plaintiff. Approximately two months before they moved out, the plaintiff was tested for lead, and the results indicated elevated levels of lead in her blood.
When she turned 20, the plaintiff filed a negligence suit against the defendant, alleging personal injuries caused by the lead paint exposure. After finding that the defendant was negligent, the jury awarded the plaintiff $800,000 in non-economic damages and $1 million dollars in economic damages. On appeal, one of the defendant’s arguments was that there was insufficient evidence that the property had contained lead paint.
In Maryland, circumstantial evidence may be used to establish causation in lead paint claims so long as it creates a reasonable likelihood, rather than a possibility, to support a rational inference of causation, and is not wholly speculative. The circumstantial evidence must give rise to two separate inferences: (1) that the property contained lead-based paint, and (2) that the lead-based paint at that property was a substantial contributor to the victim’s lead exposure.
The appeals court found that the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to indicate a reasonable likelihood of lead paint, and that it was a substantial contributor to her elevated blood lead levels. The court pointed to evidence that the plaintiff had elevated blood lead levels at eighteen months old, the alleged exposure occurred when she was an infant, and that she had resided exclusively at the defendant’s property when her blood lead levels were elevated. The court also noted that the plaintiff presented evidence that she often played in and around areas of the home that contained flaking paint, and that she had no contact with other possible sources of lead paint. After concluding that there was sufficient evidence to support the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant, the court went on to affirm the jury verdict and award of damages.
If your personal injury was caused by a careless property owner, you may have legal recourse. The attorneys at Foran & Foran can assist individuals searching for guidance after lead paint exposure or an accident. We have successfully pursued compensation for people injured by the negligent actions of others. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced accident attorneys by calling (301) 441-2022 or completing our contact form online.