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Housing authority asks court to block property seizures

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City on Friday filed a motion to stop the seizure of trucks and other property to pay for damages in a lead paint case.

The HABC’s motion, filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, seeks to quash any potential sale of property to pay a $2.6 million judgment awarded in 2010 to Antonio Fulgham and his sister, Brittany McCutcheon. HABC noted that is a small fraction of the $1 billion in liability claimed by hundreds of lead-paint plaintiffs prior to 1996.

HABC also said it was appealing the siblings’ judgment on the grounds that test results showed the absence of lead paint at one of two HABC properties mentioned in their lawsuit and the absence of lead dust at the other.

The agency also said in a prepared statement released late Friday that it was not trying to avoid paying the judgments against it.

“Contrary to published articles, HABC has never stated that it will not pay the judgments. In light of the statutory and regulatory restrictions on the use of HABC funds, HABC cannot pay the judgments, because it does not have the means or independent authority to pay,” the statement reads. “This distinction is very important. HABC [is] pursuing all viable options to address the issue.”

The agency said it has a total of $12 million in outstanding judgments against it, including the Fulgham case. HABC said that if that were its only exposure, “things could be handled very differently.”

Instead, the agency said it has been sued 372 times in the last seven years and there are still 185 pending claims for lead paint-related damages. The agency said its total exposure in the cases is more than $1 billion.

Plaintiffs’ attorney David F. Albright Jr. told the Associated Press that until the authority posts an appeal bond, they will sell seized items to pay the judgment.

On Jan. 3, the Baltimore City Sheriff started the process of seizing nearly two dozen trucks, computers and other office supplies owned by the housing authority to auction for auction as part of the Fulgham settlement.

The property being seized is a small fleet of Ford, Chevrolet and GMC trucks, vans and a Bobcat not owned by the federal government, as well as computers and other office equipment that are not owned by the federal government. As a federally funded agency, HABC’s assets are owned by the federal government and are off-limits for settlements.

“HABC is committed to addressing lead paint judgments involving decades-old cases in a fair and responsible way while protecting the vulnerable populations and low income housing residents we serve today,” said HABC spokeswoman Cheron Porter, in a statement. “HABC must have specific approval from [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] to reach resolution on these cases.”

The case is Fulgham et al. v. HABC, No. 24-C-07009697.