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Baltimore jury awards $1.8 million lead paint verdict

A Baltimore jury has awarded $1.8 million to a woman who has permanent brain damage from being exposed to lead paint as a child.

The jury deliberated for nearly two hours following a five-day trial before awarding Lea Gardner, 21, $1 million in economic damages and $800,000 in non-economic damages on Friday, according to attorney Bruce H. Powell of the Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl in Baltimore.

An expert testified that Gardner lost five IQ points and suffered cognitive defects in various areas, including attention, intellectual functioning and academic abilities, Powell said in a news release.

While Gardner graduated from high school, she was on an individualized learning plan and was placed in remedial courses based on her test scores at Baltimore City Community College.

“She didn’t operate like a high school graduate,” Powell said Monday.

Gardner lived in the home with flaking and chipping lead-based paint from when she was born in January 1997 until July 1998. In June 1998, a test showed Gardner had a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter, a level the Centers for Disease Control considered a concern for lead poisoning as of 1991.

A few weeks after moving out of the home, Gardner’s blood lead level dropped to 9 micrograms per deciliter. Within three years, the blood lead level dropped to 2 micrograms per deciliter, the news release states.

There weren’t any medical or environmental investigations done after the first blood level test because Gardner’s levels weren’t above the CDC threshold, the news release states. 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 property, which was owned by Ronald Fishkind and 25th Street Properties, LLC, was sold seven days after Gardner moved out and demolished before the lawsuit was filed. As a results, the home never had a lead inspection, according to Powell.

Instead, Gardner had a lead assessment expert testify that the property was built in 1914, a time when lead paint was commonly used on homes. Gardner was also very young when she lived at the home and spent most of her time there. Furthermore, the house had old wood windows and trim with old paint while she lived there, Powell said.

In addition to Gardner having the first and highest blood lead level when she lived in the home, the expert witness testified that it was more likely than not that Gardner ingested lead-based paint, which caused her lead poisoning.

The defense argued that there was no direct evidence the property had lead paint and that Gardner was not exposed to lead-based paint hazards at the property but was exposed to lead dust from outside sources tracked into the house. Attorneys called a neuropsychologist, a pediatric neurologist and a lead risk assessor to support the defense contention.

Powell anticipates the defense will appeal the verdict, he said Monday.

Attorneys for the property owner could not be reached for comment.

Lea Gardner v. Ronald Fishkind et al.

Court: Baltimore City Circuit

Case No.: 24-C-17-002357

Judge: Jeannie Hong

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff, $1 million in economic damages and $800,000 in noneconomic damages


Incident: January 1997 to July 1998.

Suit filed: April 28, 2017

Verdict: Jan. 18, 2019

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

Defendants’ Attorneys: Thomas W. Hale and Jeanie Ismay of Leder & Hale, PC in Towson.

Counts: Negligence

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