Personal Injury: Standards to Prove Personal Exposure to Lead-Based Paint in Maryland

In fall of 2015, the Maryland Court of Special appeals made a decision in Barr v. Rochkind that will have some ramifications for any future prosecution teams using circumstantial evidence in personal injury cases. In this case, the plaintiff was a lead poisoning victim who sought to prove that her landlord, the defendant, was responsible for her injuries and medical treatment due to the presence of lead paint in her residence.

Though lead paint is a common cause of lead poisoning, the plaintiff had to concede that she could not provide direct evidence that lead paint was used in the defendant’s property. Instead, her legal team asked the court to make that exact inference based on circumstantial evidence including medical tests showing that the level of lead in her blood rose while she was living in the residence.

After discussing the general principles of legal negligence, the court noted that the plaintiff needed to prove the fact of the defendant’s breach of duty as a landlord in using lead paint—something that could not be proven with direct evidence in this case. The court further noted that though circumstantial evidence alone was admissible, it would require additional proof to establish why the lead poisoning was more likely to have been due to lead paint in the residence she was renting from the defendant than from any other source. The court then held that in future lead poisoning cases relying exclusively on circumstantial evidence, a plaintiff will need to present a case that eliminates other sources of lead poisoning.

This ruling will directly affect future lead poisoning cases. Lead poisoning has serious and lasting consequences, and if you have suffered lead poisoning due to a negligent landlord or other responsible party, you deserve a lawyer who can present the strongest possible case to get you the best possible settlement.

Barr v. Rochkind