The plaintiff has the burden to prove each element of a negligence claim arising out of lead paint exposure. In many cases, the plaintiff in a Maryland personal injury case will have an expert testify to assist the jury in understanding the evidence or determining a fact at issue. In a July 31, 2018 lead paint case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether a medical study cited by an expert provided a sufficient factual basis for his testimony. The court also addressed whether an expert could offer an opinion on specific causation by relying on medical study data along with an individualized analysis of the plaintiff’s injuries.The plaintiff in the case sued the owners of a residential property, alleging that his injuries, including mental and attention deficits, were caused by exposure to deteriorating lead paint at the property. At trial, the parties agreed that, due to the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiff was exposed to lead paint and that the exposure was the cause of the plaintiff’s elevated blood lead levels. The remaining questions for the jury were whether the lead exposure caused an injury to the plaintiff and, if so, the amount of damages. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately $1.3 million in damages. The defendants subsequently filed an appeal, arguing that the plaintiff had not sufficiently proven that his alleged injuries resulted in any damages. The plaintiff contended that the testimony of his expert witnesses satisfied his burden of proof.
In Maryland, an expert’s opinion must be based on facts that sufficiently indicate the use of reliable principles and methodology, which thus support the expert’s conclusions. The expert must also have a rational explanation for how the factual data led to the expert’s conclusion. On appeal, the court examined the medical studies used by the plaintiff’s experts. The first expert used medical studies that examined the relationship between ADHD and lead exposure. The court found that the studies indicated an association between the two, but not causation. This was significant, since it led the court to conclude that the expert’s testimony suffered from an analytical gap by overstating the known effects of lead exposure. Lacking a scientific basis, the expert’s testimony was therefore inadmissible.
The second expert, however, used a medical study that did identify a causal relationship between attention decrements and exposure to lead. The expert did not assert that the plaintiff had a diagnosable learning disability, but she opined that the plaintiff suffered from the kind of generalized attention deficits that the study identified as being caused by lead exposure. The court thus found that she had a sufficient factual basis to offer an opinion regarding general causation. The court next examined the expert’s estimate that the plaintiff lost an estimated 4 IQ points, an opinion that relied on the plaintiff’s blood lead levels, his neuropsychological evolution results, and a medical study. The court concluded that the expert witness provided sufficient evidence for the jury to draw the inference that, more likely than not, the plaintiff’s elevated blood lead level caused a measurable loss of IQ points. Accordingly, the jury verdict was affirmed by the court.
The Maryland accident lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can assist plaintiffs in taking legal action against those responsible for their injuries. We handle premises liability actions, medical malpractice claims, and many other types of personal injury cases. Schedule a free consultation by calling (301) 441-2022 or submitting the contact form on our website.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Court Upholds Million-Dollar Jury Verdict to Plaintiff in Lead Paint Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 19, 2018
Maryland Plaintiff Appeals Decision in Lead-Based Paint Case Against Daycare Property Owner, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 26, 2017