A woman began leasing an apartment in 1993. The lease contract provided that the lease may be renewed every two years. The woman lived in that apartment with her twelve year old daughter. They lived continuously in the apartment where the landlord corporation made numerous repairs of the ceiling, the walls and the bathroom.
The paint on the walls in the apartment peeled off several times during the duration of the lease. Pain peeled off the ceiling and fell to the floor. When the bathroom fixtures were replaced by the landlord also peeled off the walls in the bathroom with the plaster.
In 2003, the woman’s daughter who had all grown up got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. The next year, 2006, the woman’s daughter began co-signing the lease and also began paying for the rent. When the granddaughter was twelve months old, doctors found that she had lead in her blood of less than three micrograms per decilitre. A year later, in 2005, her blood was tested again and her blood-lead levels were found to be 20 micrograms per decilitres.
Because of the findings of the presence of lead in the child’s blood, the City Department of Health inspected the apartment for lead. The Department of Health issued an order to the landlord corporation to remove all lead-based paint.
During the repair and removal of the lead-based paint in the apartment, the granddaughter of the woman swallowed some paint chips. A year after the first inspection and the repairs conducted in compliance with the inspection, the Department of Health inspected the apartment for a second time and found that there were still violations. That is, there was still evidence of the lead-based paint on the radiator and other walls. A month later, a final inspection was conducted by the Department of Health and a report was issued by the inspector that all the violations noted in the first two inspections had already been cured.
Two months after the last inspection, the granddaughter’s blood was tested again and the blood-lead levels had decreased to only six micrograms per decilitre.
In June 2007, the granddaughter and the daughter of the original lessee filed a case in court for common law negligence and violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. They asked for damages for the personal injury resulting in cognitive difficulties and hyperactivity disorder developed by the granddaughter which, according to them, was caused by the lead-based paint in the apartment. They claim that the landlord acted recklessly when it kept the lead-based paint in the apartment which caused the personal injury to the granddaughter.
The landlord corporation which owned the apartment and the apartment building filed a motion for summary judgment asking first that the court dismiss the cause of action for violation of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. The landlord claims that as soon as the Department of Health ordered it to repair and replace the paint, it did. Thus, there was no recklessness in its actions. It did not act in a manner that showed disregard for the baby’s health and so there is no cause of action for an award of punitive damages.
The landlord also asked for a summary judgment of dismissal of the causes of action on the ground that the daughter and the granddaughter cannot be considered as “lessees” of the apartment as they lived in the apartment but the lease was still in the name of the grandmother.
The daughter and the granddaughter of the registered lessee opposed the motion for summary judgment. She submitted deposition testimonies of an Environment Protection Agency Risk Assessor and a paediatrician who both testified that the cognitive deficiencies and hyperactivity of the granddaughter are a personal injury caused by exposure to lead-based paint found in the apartment.
The Supreme Court of Kings County denied the motion for summary judgment filed by the landlord. It then found a material issue of fact that needed to be tried before a jury. The claim for punitive damages was not dismissed.
The only question before the Supreme Court of New York is whether or not the Supreme Court of Nassau County erred in denying the motion for summary judgment.
The Court held that the landlord proved that it was entitled to a summary judgment. The cause of action on violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Reduction Act is limited to the registered lessee. Here, it is the grandmother who is the registered lessee and not her daughter or granddaughter. They have no standing to sue.
The Court also held that since the landlord repaired the apartment in compliance with the order of the Department of Health within five months of the three inspections conducted by it, the landlord cannot be said to have acted in reckless disregard of the life and health of the granddaughter.
Are you thinking of filing a personal injury suit? Do not make the mistake that the woman in this case made. Consult a Kings County Personal Injury lawyer who can listen to the facts of your case. A Kings County Personal Injury attorney can advise you if you have the necessary standing to file a case in damages. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, their Kings County Personal Injury Lawyers are willing to represent you. The Kings County Personal Injury Attorneys are capable of presenting evidence in your behalf and arguing your case. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates today.