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Md. top court to decide whether siblings of participants in Kennedy Krieger lead-paint abatement study can sue

Maryland’s top court will determine if siblings of participants in the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s lead-paint abatement study more than 20 years ago can sue the institute for negligence.

The Court of Appeals on Monday granted Kennedy Krieger’s petition for writ of certiorari in the case of Ashley Partlow, who was too old to take part in the Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Repair and Maintenance Study that exposed newborns and children to lead paint to determine the best abatement strategies. But Partlow still had elevated blood-lead levels while living in an east Baltimore house, according to court records.

A Baltimore city judge threw out Partlow’s suit against Kennedy Krieger in February 2015, finding the institute did not have a duty to care for her.

The Court of Special Appeals reversed in September in a 2-1 unreported opinion, with the majority citing a 2001 Court of Appeals opinion allowing study participants to sue for negligence. Kennedy Krieger “determined the condition of the home for all who lived there,” not just the participants, Judge Douglas R.M. Nazarian wrote.

In dissent, Judge Stuart R. Berger said Kennedy Krieger had no common law duty to Partlow, writing the Court of Appeals’ opinion was “based upon the unique special relationship between researchers and participants in a particular research study.”

The Court of Appeals has not scheduled arguments for the case, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Inc. v. Ashley Partlow, No. 82, September Term 2017.

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