Segal McCambridge Victorious in Lead Paint Exposure Case; Decision Expected to Have National Impact on Lead Paint Litigation


September 6, 2012

Segal McCambridge obtained a significant federal court ruling this week in lead paint exposure litigation. In dismissing claims of neurological deficiencies from lead paint exposure alleged against three premises owner and property management defendants, the court reinforced the theory that a plaintiff must prove a correlation between neurological deficiencies and specific blood-lead levels. The decision addresses an emerging issue in lead paint exposure cases and will likely influence this type of litigation nationwide.

On September 4, 2012, ruling on a motion filed by Segal McCambridge, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment in John Szewczuk, et al. vs. Stellar 117 Garth, LLC, et al. on multiple grounds, including medical causation, and dismissed the case. Segal McCambridge associate David Kostus assisted with the motion.

The infant-plaintiff was found to have a blood-lead level of 7 micrograms per deciliter, which until recently, was considered below the legal threshold for lead poisoning. On causation, the court found that: 1) even though lead-based paint exceeding the legal limit was found in the subject premises, the fact that the paint itself was intact demonstrated that the infant-plaintiff was not exposed to lead inside the apartment; 2) the plaintiff's neuropsychological expert, Dr. Theodore Lidsky, speculated but did not establish that the infant-plaintiff's elevated blood-lead level during her residence resulted from exposure to lead at the subject premises; and 3.) Dr. Lidsky offered no specific support for the assertion that the infant-plaintiff's blood-lead level can and did cause any of the alleged injuries. 

This holding is significant for the following reasons:  1) it rejects the testimony of Dr. Lidsky, who is the leading neuropsychological plaintiffs' expert in the New York area, and prominently used nationwide; 2) it solidifies the theory that a plaintiff must show a correlation between an identified neurological deficiency and a specific blood-lead level; 3) because the United States District Court set a precedent on a novel issue, it will make it much more challenging for plaintiffs throughout the country to establish that alleged neurological deficits are caused by blood-lead levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter; and 4)  because Dr. Lidsky is used frequently throughout the country, the decision should have a national impact on this type of litigation.