For young children, lead-based paint exposure can result in long-term injuries. In a December 21, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury case brought by a plaintiff against a property owner. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent in maintaining the property, which caused the plaintiff’s exposure to lead and subsequent injuries related to that exposure. After a jury returned a $1.7 million dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the Maryland personal injury case, the defendants filed the instant appeal.
The plaintiff in the case had lived with his mother and siblings at the defendants’ property from September of 1996 to February of 1998. During his childhood, the plaintiff was tested for the presence of lead in his blood on numerous occasions. After living at the defendants’ property for approximately one year, a blood test revealed that the plaintiff had elevated levels of lead in his blood. The plaintiff sued the defendants after he reached the age of majority, alleging negligence and other claims. The plaintiff succeeded on his negligence claim against the defendants, and the jury awarded him $1,725,936.00 in economic damages.
On appeal, one of the arguments asserted by the defendants was that the trial court erred by improperly allowing evidence of Housing Code violations and instructing the jury that such violations established a prima facie case of negligence. The defendants contended that the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial.
To establish a prima facie case of negligence in Maryland, a plaintiff must show that the defendants violated a statute or ordinance designed to protect a specific class of persons which includes the plaintiff, and that the violation proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The appeals court concluded that evidence regarding a defective bedroom window, which was known to contain lead paint, and which the plaintiff’s mother had testified was chipping, was clearly relevant to the plaintiff’s case.
The appeals court also found that evidence of the leaking ceiling and water on the walls and floors was relevant to prove that water had seeped into the property, causing deterioration. The court noted that the plaintiff’s expert testified that painted surfaces can be destabilized when they become wet, and that the evidence was relevant to show the increasing likelihood of the plaintiff’s exposure to lead paint. As such, the court ruled that the evidence of the Housing Code violations was admissible.
The appeals court went on to address the use of the Housing Code violations in the jury instructions. The court ruled that the instructions did not allow the jury to find the defendants negligent merely based solely on Housing Code violations. Rather, the instructions required the jury to find that any such violations were a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The court therefore affirmed the verdict for the plaintiff.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our accident lawyers can provide guidance to people who have been injured by careless property owners or other people. We represent plaintiffs in personal injury actions, premises liability cases, and more. Call Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to request a free consultation with an experienced attorney.