A county Circuit Court jury awarded 10 Glen Burnie families almost $100,000 late yesterday for the annoyance, inconvenience and emotionalinjury caused by noise from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
After nearly three days of deliberation, the jury awarded eachof the 20 adults who brought the lawsuit amounts ranging from $2,300to $12,000, said Joseph A. Miklasz, who represented the families. Noawards were made to the 17 children named in the lawsuit.
Although his clients were not happy with the overall award -- they had sought $5,000 to $250,000 for each of 37 individuals -- they were satisfied with the message the jury sent to BWI, Miklasz said.
"The jury verdict was not adequate to compensate these people for what they suffered for seven years," he said. "But they did find that BWI was negligent and that it created a private nuisance.
"Therefore, it still says to the state in big, capital letters, 'Beware, if youdon't treat the people of Anne Arundel County with respect, this is just the beginning of what may come.' "
BWI spokeswoman Linda Green issued a prepared statement defending the airport's practices. "Since the mid-1980s, the Maryland Aviation Administration has made tremendous efforts to address the affects of noise through land acquisition, sound-proofing and other programs at BWI. We feel those efforts have been recognized in this verdict," she said.
Last night Linda Green, a spokeswoman for BWI, said she could not comment on the verdictbecause she had not yet discussed it with the airport's attorneys.
The families brought suit against the airport six years ago, claiming that it was negligent for not telling them their homes were being constructed in a noise zone.
Residents who live in the Brookfield North section of Glen Burnie testified that constant noise from airplanes flying overhead caused a myriad of health and emotional problemsover the years, even prompting three individuals to attempt suicide.
Lawyers representing the state-owned airport argued during the trial that the families greatly exaggerated their claims about the impact of noise on both their health and the devaluation of their homes.
The residents bought their homes in the late 1970s, about the sametime the state created an official noise zone for the airport. According to the family's lawyers, the state was required to tell them in advance that they were moving into an area officially designated as anoise zone.
The state admits it did not notify homeowners in advance. But state officials say the reason is that building permits already were issued for these houses before the zone was certified in September 1976.
Eight of the 10 families named in the suit have sincemoved, Miklasz said, five out of the county.
Miklasz said he would be meeting with his clients this week to determine whether to appeal the decision, specifically the jury's decision not to compensate families for what they considered lost value on their property due to the noise levels.
The jury's awards were specifically for "annoyance, inconvenience, loss of use and enjoyment of property and bodily and emotional injury," not property value, Miklasz said.
The 12-day trial, which began Sept. 19, generated two dozen witnesses and thousands of documents for the jury to plow through. Miklasz said he believed the case had "nationwide importance" and would be used as a standard elsewhere.
"This is really an environmental case," he said.