Housing Authority open to health suits


In a ruling that could increase damages awards paid to tenants injured in Baltimore public housing, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an opinion yesterday holding that the Housing Authority of Baltimore City cannot claim immunity for injuries caused by the agency's negligence.

The ruling came in the case of Crystal Bennett, now 12, who was poisoned in 1988 by lead paint in a house owned by the authority in the 700 block of Cator Ave. A jury ruled that the child was entitled to $630,000 in damages in 1996.

The housing authority appealed, arguing that its liability was limited to $200,000 under a partial immunity granted to public officials under an act that protects civil servants against negligence claims.

But, under the ruling, the agency can now be held liable up to the full value of its policies, plus $500,000 for any pain and suffering.

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