ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Legal Newsline) – The Maryland Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court's summary judgment in a lawsuit over injuries allegedly caused by exposure to lead paint.
Terrence Rogers v. Home Equity USA Inc., decided May 30, focused on a legal dispute between plaintiff Terrance Rogers and the owners of a property he lived in as a child. Rogers claims he was exposed to lead paint.
The plaintiff lived in 1996 at a property owned by the defendant as a young child. It was during this time that the plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to lead paint.
In 1976, the Baltimore City Health Department conducted an investigation into the property and found lead-based paint on 19 surfaces throughout the interior of the home and flaking paint on an additional seven surfaces.
The organization issued an abatement card. More than 20 years later, in 1997, a Baltimore Health Department worker visited the property again and found that did not appear to have been renovated and that the windows and many surfaces still contained chipped or flaking paint.
The plaintiff filed a complaint with the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against the defendant for negligence and unfair trade practices in violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act on May 29, 2013. The complaint stated that he suffered brain damage as a result of exposure to lead paint as a child living at the defendant's property. Rogers is requesting damages of more than $75,000, plus costs, for each of his claims.
On Dec. 8, 2014, the defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiff had not provided enough evidence that the property on Towanda Avenue was the source of the lead exposure. A trial court ruled that while the plaintiff still had a case for medical causation, it did not have enough evidence for source causation and that he had failed to provided enough evidence to demonstrate that the property was responsible for his elevated blood-lead levels.
The plaintiff responded by filing a motion of reconsideration on the grounds that an inspection conducted in 2007 revealed that the property still contained lead paint. Despite this, the motion was still denied by the trial court, a decision that the plaintiff appealed.
The Court of Special Appeals denied the appeal. However, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed this judgment arguing that the lower court erred in both granting Home Equity’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Rogers failed to establish the Towanda Avenue property as a reasonably probable source of his lead exposure and by granting Home Equity’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Rogers failed to establish a reasonable probability that the property caused his elevated blood lead levels.
The reversal was written by Judge Sally Adkins with seven justices in agreement and one dissenting.
In his dissent, Judge Joseph Getty said that he is concerned that the majority decision has "substantially lowered the bar that a plaintiff must surpass in order to avoid summary judgment in a lead paint negligence action."