Reporting Mike Schuh
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Just as vehicles owned by the city housing authority were about to be sent to auction to pay for damages in a lead paint lawsuit, a judge has overturned the case.
Now, as Mike Schuh reports, the family who won the case may never see a dime of the $2.6 million in damages awarded by a jury.
Federal scientists estimate that 95 percent of homes built before 1950 contain lead in the form of lead paint. Brittany McCutcheon and her brother Antonio Fulgham were born in one of those lead paint homes—owned by the city of Baltimore.
In the early 90s the family lived in two housing authority-owned homes on West Fayette Street in West Baltimore. It was during this time that both of the children were tested and found to have abnormally high levels of lead. After the family moved out of the homes, they were demolished.
When the lead was detected in their blood, their mother traveled downtown and filed a written complaint with the housing authority.
Years later, testing found that McCutcheon and Fulgham operate at a third- and fifth-grade level of intelligence.
They sued the city and won $2.6 million. But now an appellate judge says the mother didn’t follow the law, saying the city wasn’t notified it was going to be sued within 180 days of the children sustaining their injuries. So, this week, the case was overturned.
David Albright Jr. represented the children and questioned how intent to sue could be given within 180 days when lead poisoning affects aren’t seen for years.
“It’s virtually impossible,” Albright said.
He says his clients don’t understand why the city won’t accept what the city has done to them.
“They’re responsible,” Albright said. “Now regardless whether it’s a legal technicality, it’s certainly morally responsible.”
The housing commissioner was unavailable for comment. He earlier wrote he was pleased with the court’s decision.
The victims’ mother was unable to talk extensively with WJZ because she’s working a double shift at her job. But she did say she was angry with the court’s decision.
The attorney says he has 45 days to file an appeal with the full Court of Appeals.