Jason Lanza was born in 2008 while his parents were tenants in a multi-family building on Eastern Parkway in Farmingdale. In 2012, the Nassau County Department of Health conducted an inspection and found numerous lead hazards throughout the apartment including the paint on the windows and other areas in Jason’s bedroom.
In 2014, Jason’s parents sued the building owner claiming that, due to elevated lead levels in his body from his exposure to lead based paint in their apartment, Jason sustained brain injuries. In particular, they claimed Jason had speech and language deficits and an abnormally low IQ.
The jury ruled in plaintiff’s favor finding that the landlord failed to keep the premises reasonably safe and that his negligence was a substantial factor in causing Jason’s elevated lead levels. They then awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $25,000 ($10,000 past – 11 years, $15,000 future – one year).
Plaintiff appealed arguing that the damages award was inadequate. In Lanza v. Delbalso (2d Dept. 2023), the appellate court affirmed the award.
The damages proof was largely a battle of experts.
- Plaintiff presented a pediatric neurologist who examined Jason in 2018, reviewed his medical and school records and opined that Jason’s elevated levels of lead in his blood caused a permanent IQ loss of 15 points leaving him functioning in the below average range with various developmental delays in school.
- Defendant presented a clinical psychologist who also reviewed Jason’s records, performed a three hour neuropsychological exam of him in 2015 and opined that Jason was not suffering from any permanent damages as a result of his exposure to lead. The expert noted that plaintiff’s speech delays were diagnosed when he was 18 months old, before there was any actionable exposure to lead and, in any event, they fully resolved by the time he started elementary school. He also pointed to evidence that plaintiff was doing well in school, did not have any special education or therapy and has no behavioral problems.