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Baltimore jury awards $3 million in lead paint case

A Baltimore jury awarded $3 million to a woman exposed to lead paint as a child, the third and largest verdict she has received in a case that has been reversed twice due to issues with expert testimony.

The jury deliberated for eight hours before awarding Starlena Stevenson, now 28, $1 million in economic damages and $2 million in noneconomic damages, which will be reduced to $350,000 under the state’s mandatory cap.

Stevenson is permanently brain-damaged as a result of exposure to flaking and chipping lead-based paint at a home she lived in between 1991 and 1993, according to attorney Bruce H. Powell of the Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl in Baltimore.

Powell said Stevenson is “very happy and relieved” with the verdict.

A jury awarded Stevenson $1.3 million in 2014, but the judge granted a defense motion for judgment and ordered a new trial on damages, which ended in another $1.3 million verdict later that year. The Court of Appeals vacated that award last year because the trial court improperly allowed an expert to testify that childhood lead exposure caused the plaintiff’s ADHD.

In the latest trial, an expert testified that Stevenson lost five to six IQ points and suffered other permanent cognitive deficits, learning disabilities and behaviorAL problems as a result of lead exposure, according to Powell.

The case that was put on was virtually identical to the trial from 2014 but without the testimony the Court of Appeals took issue with, Powell said, adding he is “not that worried” about an appeals court overturning the verdict again.

Stevenson’s blood-lead level was 14 in October 1992; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in the late 1990s, considered a blood-lead level above 10 to be cause for concern. Since 2012, however, the CDC has said there is no safe level for lead exposure in children. The centers consider a blood-lead level of 5 an indication a child requires case management.

The defense argued that not all of Stevenson’s cognitive issues could be traced to lead exposure, according to Powell. They called a pediatric neurologist, vocational rehabilitation expert and economist.

An attorney for S&S Partnership, which owned the property, declined to comment Wednesday. An attorney for Stanley Rochkind, owner of S&S, was unavailable Wednesday.

Starlena Stevenson v. S&S Partnership et al.

Court: Baltimore City Circuit

Case No.: 24C11008722

Judge: Barry Williams

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff, $1 million in economic damages and $2 million in noneconomic damages


Incident: October 1991 to January 1993

Suit filed: Dec. 19, 2011

Verdict: Dec. 19, 2018

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Bruce H. Powell and Scott E. Nevin of the Law Office of Peter T. Nicholl in Baltimore.

Defendants’ Attorneys: Thomas Cullen Jr. and Constantine J. Themelis of Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann LLP in Baltimore, Ronald D. Getchey of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in San Diego for Stanley Rochkind and Brian M. Spern, a Baltimore solo practitioner, for S&S Partnership and Dear Management & Construction Co. In.

Counts: Negligence, violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act

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