Baltimore jury returns $1.6 million lead paint verdict

The Baltimore Sun - October 10, 2014

A Baltimore city jury awarded $1.6 million on Friday to a young man sickened by lead paint in a rental home where he lived as a child, his attorney said.

Montrell Washington, 21, sued the landlord of the home alleging he had not followed the housing code, said the lawyer Nicholas Szokoly. Washington struggled with reading and had a low IQ as a result of being exposed to lead, Szokoly said.

Even though the award will be slightly reduced due to a cap on damages, Szokoly called it "a very significant judgment."

Attorneys for the landlord, Steven L. Berman, could not be reached for comment.

Szokoly said evidence showed that the house had chipped paint in the early 1990s when Washington was living there and that lead was still present there.

In 2010, Berman was sentenced to federal probation and fined $750,000 after pleading guilty to his role in a scheme to hold down the prices of tax liens sold at auction. Szokoly sought to use that conviction against Berman at trial, but he said a judge ruled that the jury should not hear about it.

The verdict is the second major victory for a plaintiff in a lead paint suit in recent weeks. In September a city jury awarded $2.1 million to the family of a teenager who alleged he had been poisoned.