Landlord Slapped with $3 Million Verdict

 A personal injury lawyer in New York reports he has won a $3 million verdict against a rental property owner and property manager.

Philip Monier, III, of Levy Philips & Konigsberg LLP says the verdict follows a four week trial. A Bronx jury awarded the money to the family of a young girl who suffered brain injuries as a result of lead poisoning in her family’s apartment when she was five years old.

The child’s mother says justice had been done.

Monier explains that, prior to the jury hearing the case, the judge made a determination that the property owner was responsible for the conditions existing in the apartment and for the girls lead poisoning, and therefore was negligent. The jury had to determine whether the managing agent was also responsible and to what extent the child had suffered damages.

According to the complaint, the child had only lived in that one apartment following her birth, and, during the entire time she lived there, through the age of five, the family constantly complained about damaged paint conditions existing in the apartment.

The child’s mother testified that although the damaged conditions were repaired, they were never repaired adequately. She said that, as a result of the child’s exposure to lead at the age of five, shortly before the child was to attend kindergarten, she was diagnosed with a blood lead level of 19 micrograms per deciliter, which is almost double the definition of lead poisoning set by the New York State Department of Health and the Federal Centers for Disease Control. Although the girl’s lead level began to drop, the permanent brain damage caused by lead poisoning had already occurred.

Lead is especially toxic to children under the age of seven because that is the age when much brain development occurs. Lead poisoning can cause reduced intelligence, cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, attention problems, and behavioral issues. These changes generally are permanent and irreversible.

Monier called in experts in the fields of psychology, pediatrics and economics to assist the jury in understanding how the child’s ingestion of lead in her apartment impacted her brain development, injured her, and how those injuries have affected her. Those experts informed the jury that as a result of the girl’s lead poisoning her intelligence had been reduced and that she suffered specific learning disabilities in writing and reading comprehension. They further testified that as a result of her injuries she no longer had the ability to complete a four year college program and would not be able to achieve twelfth grade proficiency. As a result of her injuries and her reduced ability to obtain an education, the economist testified that her future job opportunities would be limited and her lifetime earnings over her work life would be reduced by almost $2.5 million dollars.

The jury of five women and one man rejected the arguments by the managing agent that it was only responsible to provide back office services to the owner of the building and that it was not responsible for painting, repairs or maintenance of the individual apartments in the building, including the child’s apartment.

The jury also rejected the managing agent’s argument that the child was not damaged as a result of her lead poisoning and that she still had average intelligence and would still be able to graduate from high school and go on to graduate from a four year college program. The experts called by the defendants argued that the child’s intelligence was in the average range, that she was never placed in a special education program or diagnosed with learning disabilities and that she was never left back a grade in school. These experts also argued that whatever difficulties the child was having in school were caused as a result of her attending a school that had received a rating of “F” from the NYC Board of Education and not the result of her lead poisoning. Finally, the defendant argued that the child would have no future lost income because all of her future job opportunities would still be available to her.

Levy Philips & Konigsberg LLP has handled a number of lead poisoning cases.

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