Home National housing How 2 industries blocked justice for young lead paint victims

How 2 industries blocked justice for young lead paint victims


Without insurance, there is little chance of recovering money for a child when an owner has few resources. Landlords who hold large assets have found ways to legally distance themselves from problematic tenancies, increasingly using LLCs to hide assets and identities. In 2019, for example, a family in Virginia who received a $2 million judgment agreed to accept just $140,000 after the landlord, a major developer, dodged collection efforts.

As a result, plaintiffs’ attorneys – who often work on a contingency basis, bearing costs and collecting payment only if there is a favorable judgment or settlement – ​​are increasingly refusing to sue.

If it hadn’t been for the hurdles, ‘I would still be in front of juries,’ said Richard Serpe, an attorney who represented the Virginia family and quit taking lead cases last year after being there. worked for three decades. “We shifted the burden to those least able to handle it, which is those children.”

The issue of lead poisoning has taken on new urgency: In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the threshold for identifying those at risk, meaning many more children will show high levels of lead poisoning. lead. In New York state alone, that number would nearly double, from around 6,000 new cases a year to around 11,500, according to health data reviewed by The Times.

No exposure to lead is considered safe, and even low levels have been shown to affect a child’s intelligence, learning ability, and behavior, according to the CDC. The repercussions can last a lifetime, and taxpayers end up paying much of the time. the cost of care – billions of dollars a year for medical treatment and special education.

The ultimate goal is to address lead hazards so that children are not exposed at all, which local, state and federal agencies are addressing with limited success. David Jacobs, chief scientist at the National Center for Healthy Housing, points out that there are known cures for unsafe properties and argues that landlords and insurers, who can grant or deny them coverage, must play a role in resolution the problem. “We can’t afford to keep ignoring it – it costs too much and causes too much damage,” he said.

Some states have limited or attempted to ban insurance exclusions — a bill is pending in New York — but the insurance and real estate industries have opposed such moves. Frames in these companies claim that requiring lead coverage would crash the insurance market and drive up the cost of housing, regardless of whether lead paint was present before a child was poisoned.