Jury awards $8 million to Baltimore boy, 8, poisoned by lead paint

January 09, 1992|By Ann LoLordo

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury awarded $8 million yesterday to an 8-year-old boy who was poisoned by lead paint found in the East Eager Street house his mother rented.

The 12-member jury issued the award against Michael Thompson, the landlord of the property. Mr. Thompson, of the 800 block of Wedgewood Road, could not be reached for comment, and it was unclear whether he had a lawyer. He has 30 days to appeal the jury award.

Mr. Thompson didn't appear in court yesterday and has never challenged the lawsuit filed on behalf of the child on Aug. 21, 1986. A default judgment was issued against Mr. Thompson on May 24, 1989, according to Evan K. Thalenberg and Jonathan Schochor, the boy's lawyers.

The lawyers for young Corey Cozart said their client suffered permanent brain damage as a result of lead paint poisoning that mostly occurred when the child was 2 years old and while he lived with his mother and four siblings at 1914 E. Eager St.

Earlier, the lawyers obtained settlements with other defendants in a separate case related to lead exposure in a house where the family had lived previously. Mr. Schochor would not identify the defendants or divulge the amounts in their settlements, which he said included agreements to confidentiality.

"[His] brain injury is devastating and will impair his total functioning for the rest of his life," Mr. Schochor said, quoting expert medical testimony that was presented to the jury yesterday.

The lawyers gave this account of Corey's case:

It was through a routine blood screening that Corey's mother, Patricia Walker, learned her son was in trouble in May 1985. The amount of lead in his blood was six times the amount at which a child is considered to be at risk by the Centers for Disease Control, Mr. Schochor said.

On May 28, 1985, the city Health Department tested the house in which the boy lived for the presence of lead paint and found 14 violations of the city housing code, Mr. Thalenberg said. It ordered immediate removal of the poisonous paint.

Attempts to remove the lead paint allegedly weren't successful, the lawyers said.

During the remainder of 1985, Corey was twice hospitalized for stays that exceeded 20 days. On Nov. 1, 1985, at the age of 23 months, he was readmitted to the Kennedy Institute for Handicapped Children and remained there until Dec. 5, 1985.

The boy has been treated on an outpatient basis ever since, the lawyers said. "He is severely emotionally disturbed, hyperactive," said Mr. Thalenberg. "He has an attention deficit and can't concentrate. He couldn't finish kindergarten."

The boy and his family moved from the house after Corey's last hospital stay.

The award provides $5 million in compensation for the boy's brain injury, and another $3 million in the name of Ms. Walker -- who is president of Parents Against Lead, an advocacy and parent support group -- for custodial care of her son.

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