Baltimore jury awards $1.2 million lead paint verdict

The Daily Record - April 15, 2019

A Baltimore city jury awarded $1.2 million to a woman who has permanent cognitive deficiencies from being exposed to lead paint as a baby.

After a five-day trial and two hours of deliberations, a jury of two men and four women awarded damages to Courtney Tomlin, 25, on Friday.

Tomlin lived at a home on 2857 West Lanvale St. in Baltimore from when she was 4 days old until she was 2 years old, the lawsuit states.

At eight months, Tomlin’s blood lead level was 2 micrograms per deciliter. Her highest blood level level was 7 micrograms per deciliter when she was 15 months old. At age 2, just before Tomlin moved out of the home, her blood lead level was 6 micrograms per deciliter, Robert J. Leonard, one of Tomlin’s attorneys, said Monday.

In the late 1990s, the CDC considered a blood lead level above 10 micrograms to be cause for concern. Since 2012, the CDC has said there is no safe level for lead exposure in children and a blood lead level of 5 micrograms indicates a child requires case management.

This case had one of the lowest blood levels that went to trial in Leonard’s recollection.

“I think the residents of Baltimore city are aware of the dangers of lead poisoning,” Leonard said. “It’s the defense attorneys and insurance companies that don’t appreciate the harm and value in what are considered to be lower blood lead levels.”

In speaking with jurors after the trial, Leonard found the expert witnesses worked in his client’s favor.

“They (the jurors) told us the science was very clear and they felt all of the experts had a wealth of knowledge about the science,” Leonard said.

The experts testified that Tomlin lost 7.4 IQ points and she had cognitive deficits in working memory, reading and language functioning, Leonard said.

Her school records made it easy for the jury to see how those issues manifested, Leonard said. Tomlin failed every exam she took in high school. She was able to graduate, but needed bridge projects to do so.

Tomlin dropped out of college her first year, then attempted community college but dropped out after failing classes. Experts testified that Tomlin’s academic functioning today is somewhere between fifth- and eighth-grade levels, Leonard said.

“All of this leads to a loss of earning capacity,” he said.

The last settlement offer was for $200,000. During trial, Tomlin’s attorneys’ made a final demand for $500,000, Leonard said.

An attorney for City Homes did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

This was the second lead paint case that went to trial against City Homes after several lawsuits were stayed after the company filed for bankruptcy. The stay was lifted on April 13, 2017, after the bankruptcy court ruled that City Homes’ insurance coverage allowed for plaintiffs to recover damages. Tomlin’s lawsuit was filed after the stay was lifted because her case was still within the statute of limitations, Leonard said.

A jury awarded a $2.2 million verdict against City Homes in February, the first case that went to trial against the company since the stay was lifted.

Courtney Tomlin v. City Homes et al.        

Court: Baltimore City Circuit

Case No.: 24-C-17-002237

Judge: Pamela White

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff, $1.2 million economic damages

Dates:

Incident: 1995 to 1997

Suit filed: April 2017

Verdict: April 12, 2019

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Robert (“Robbie”) J. Leonard, Matthew Thompson and Avalon S. Brandt of The Law Offices of Evan Thalenberg, P.A. in Baltimore

Defendants’ Attorneys: Lisa Morgan and Lindsay E. Bird of The Law Office of Frank F. Daily, P.A. in Hunt Valley

Counts: Negligence, negligent misrepresentation, violation of the Consumer Protection Act

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