Lead Poisoning in Westchester
Our White Plains personal injury lawyers in recent years have seen an increase in lead poisoning cases, particularly among hispanic children. In many Westchester communities such as White Plains, Ossining, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Mamaroneck, older homes are being converted into multi-families or are being leased as rentals While it has been illegal to use lead based paint since 1975, some older homes still have lead paint.
Lead based paint is particularly dangerous, especially to children. Often when landlords don’t maintain the properties, the paint begins to chip and peel, especially around window sills and baseboards, paint chips and toxic lead dust fall onto the floor. Young children who are crawling on the floor absorb this lead dust into the capillaries in their skin. Also children who are teething put everything in their mouths, including paint that has fallen onto the ground. Lead is a known cause of damage to the nervous system and can cause brain damage, reduced intelligence, developmental delays in concentration, speech and hyperactivity.
Usually, parents are unaware that their children are being poisoned by lead until the child’s first or second annual blood test, which is when New York State law requires that pediatricians test for lead. In Westchester, whenever a child tests positive for lead, the Westchester Department of Health will be notified and they will conduct a thorough investigation to document exactly where the lead is. The Department of Health also typically issues a notice to the landlord to abate the lead within a specified time period.
Even though the parents are unaware of the situation, a landlord can be held responsible for renting an apartment or house to a family with young children and ignoring the signs of lead. Merely having lead present isn’t enough for a landlord to be held responsible. To hold a landlord liable, the landlord must have been negligent in their maintenance of the property, which means that they knew that there was lead present, which is called actual notice or they should have known, which is called constructive notice, and they failed to remediate the lead.
Our Westchester lead attorneys have an excellent track record in proving that the landlord was negligent in lead cases. First, Westchester’s Sanitary Code requires that all lead be removed prior to renting a property for lease. Next, constructive notice of lead can be proven where the property was constructed prior to 1975, there is chipping or peeling paint, the landlord retained right of re-entry and knew of the hazards of lead paint. In light of the Westchester Sanitary Code a number of these factors can be inferred. Even in cases where notice of the lead cannot be proven, where a landlord learns that the child has tested positive for lead and fails to take remedial action and the child’s blood lead levels either increase or fail to decrease in response to treatment. In these cases, landlord can be held responsible for the the continued exposure to lead which causes a further worsening of the child’s condition. Since the Westchester Department of Health issues written notices to the landlord with stern warning language, where a landlord fails to respond or drags their feet in remediating the lead and the child’s blood levels spike, these are strong cases of negligence and demonstrate a willful disregard for the health and safety of the child.
Westchester lead lawyer Michael Joseph is not just an attorney, but is also a parent and looks at every case as if it were his own child. We turn over every rock and fight hard to make sure that landlords who put children in peril pay for their carelessness.