Years before the federal ban on lead in paint, Baltimore was the first municipality in the U.S. to not allow any lead in paint for interior use. Well, Baltimore is again a pioneer when it comes to lead paint. The Housing Authority of Baltimore, which faces a number of lead-paint lawsuits, is trying a novel defense. It has told the plaintiff: Forget suing since we can't afford to pay.
BALTIMORE SUN writer Matthew Dolan reports today that although the problem of lead-paint poisoning has dropped significantly among Baltimore children, 13 families claim harm.
Current or former residents of the city's public housing, these families are represented separately by Baltimore attorney David F. Albright Jr. . That's because their children were allegedly affected by lead paint before the 1996's state-capped awards for exposure. Through their individual lawsuits they are asking for damages totaling $28 million.
In a request that Attorney Albright deems unprecedented, the housing authority has asked a city judge to rule that it has no funds, therefore is unable to pay anything in civil proceedings concerning the alleged harm. The housing authority's attorney David Tillman states that this request is not at all about liability. It's about saving the agency's resources that would be expended in a lawsuit and the court's time.
Watchers of the Rhode Island (RI) lead paint trial have brought up the fact that in some cases the landlords of property containing lead paint is the government -- just like in Baltimore. If the defense in the RI lead paint trial ultimately has its way, it will be the landlords who are held responsible for cleaning up the residue of lead paint in RI housing. In that situation, that could include the government. If the government is also held responsible for compensation for lead-paint harm to the residents, will it follow Baltimore's lead and say, no can pay?