Monday, March 22, 2010

Second Department Affirms Punitive Damages in Lead Paint Case

In Solis-Vicuna v. Notias, the plaintiff brought an action against the defendant owners of a building for brain injuries to her infant children caused by lead paint. The jury awarded one child $420,000 for future pain and suffering and the other child $380,000 for future pain and suffering. The jury did not award either of the infant plaintiffs damages for past pain and suffering. The jury also awarded the plaintiffs punitive damages in the sum of $260,000. On appeal, the defendants argued that the jury’s award for future pain and suffering was inconsistent with its decision to make no award for past pain and suffering. The defendants also challenged the jury’s punitive damages award.

The Appellate Division held that “where the plaintiffs presented evidence that the damages from lead poisoning were not immediately manifest but will worsen over time, the award of future damages, but no past damages, is not an indication that the jurors were confused or that there was a compromise verdict.” The Court also affirmed the award for punitive damages holding such an award was not unreasonable since the plaintiffs presented evidence demonstrating that the appellant had long been aware of the dangers of lead paint, including that it was harmful to young children; that the appellants knew young children lived in the apartment; that in 2001 the appellants twice received notice that they were required to abate the lead paint in the subject apartment before they began abatement work; and that the abatement they performed was inadequate.

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