On November 12, 2019, a Baltimore lead paint jury returned its verdict in the amount of $1.841 million in favor of the older sibling of a lead paint study participant in a lawsuit filed against Kennedy Krieger Institute in 2009 related to its Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Repair and Maintenance Study (“R&M Study”) that it conducted from 1993 to 1999. The R&M Study exposed newborns and children to lead paint to determine the best abatement strategies (the study sought to determine the best household lead-abatement strategies by examining the blood-lead levels of children between 6 months and 4 years living in homes with one of three levels of abatement).
The Baltimore jury’s verdict included $171,000 in economic damages and $1.67 million in noneconomic damages. The noneconomic damages award is subject to Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages in such cases in the amount of $350,000.
The R&M Study involved more than 100 homes divided into five groups. Two groups were control groups (one with homes built after 1978 (when lead was banned from paint) and the other with homes that had previously undergone comprehensive lead abatement). Each of the three test groups had various levels of interventions (lead-paint abatements) that were assigned by Kennedy Krieger Institute. The study’s participnats’ blood-lead levels were checked over time.
The now 30-year-old plaintiff was too old to participate in the R&M Study but her younger sister was a study participant. The plaintiff and her sister lived in one of the homes involved in the study in 1994. The Court of Appeals of Maryland held in 2018 that a duty of care exists in limited circumstances where: (1) the medical research institute knows of the presence of the child, who is not a participant in the research study concerning lead-based paint abatement of the property, who resides at the property that is subject to the research study during the participant child’s enrollment in the study; (2) the medical research institute has signed a consent agreement with the parent or guardian for a participant child’s enrollment in the research study and both participant and non-participant children reside at the property subject to the study; (3) the medical research institute knows or should know of the presence or suspected presence of lead in the property; (4) the medical research institute determined the level of lead-based paint abatement for the property; and (5) the non-participant child who resided at the property during the research study was allegedly injured by being exposed to lead at the property.
The Court of Appeals of Maryland held that Kennedy Krieger Instutute owed a duty to the plaintiff even though she was not a study participant (“Because the R&M Study necessarily would have impacted not only participant children, but also nonparticipant children resident in properties subject to the study, exposing both sets of children equally to lead, KKI’s conduct was just as blameworthy with respect to nonparticipant children as it was with respect to children participating in the study. The factor of blameworthiness weighs in favor of establishing a duty.”).
The plaintiff’s lawyer stated after the verdict, “This was the only case that has ever been tried with regard to a sibling, non-study participant, as opposed to a person in the study. You can’t just create this study and not pay any attention to other children who may be in the house who may be poisoned by lead and lead dust and ignore them because of their age.”
The defense attorney indicated after the verdict that the defendant is evaluating its post-trial options and may appeal the verdict.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury as a result of lead paint exposure in Baltimore, elsewhere in Maryland, or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Baltimore lead paint lawyer, a Maryland lead paint lawyer, or a lead paint lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your lead paint claim for you and represent you in a lead paint case, if appropriate.
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