A Maryland judge ruled that while lead paint may cause ADHD,
it couldn't be proved that lead paint caused a plaintiff's ADHD - causing
a verdict of $1.3 million to be overturned.
A $1.3 million law suit was overturned after the Maryland Court of Appeals concluded that an expert witness could not show lead paint causes ADHD.
The case of Starlena Stevenson v. Stanley Rochkind centers around Stevenson, who lived in a home owned by Rochkind as a child. She was tested for suspected lead poisoning as a toddler after her mother noticed she had been eating the flaking paint on the property. Years later, lead inspection would find the house to have toxic lead-based paint in more than 20 interior and exterior surfaces. Stevenson was later diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and went on to have problems in school despite being treated with Ritalin and Adderall.
Suit was filed against Rochkind in 2011 for violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act.
Lead expert testimony came from pediatrician Cecilia Hall-Carrington. Hall-Carrington filed a report stating "a reasonable degree of medical probability" that Stevenson experienced lead poisoning from living in Rochkind's property and that "her lead poisoning is a significant contributing factor" to Stevenson's ADHD.
Rochkind filed for Hall-Carrington's testimony to be excluded, but was denied. He argued that the scientific community has not come to a conclusion that lead paint exposure causes ADHD.
The jury found in favor of Stevenson - largely due to Hall-Carrington's testimony - and awarded her $1.3 million in economic and non-economic damages; however, that ruling has since been appealed.
According to Judge Sally Adkins, Hall-Carrrington's testimony did not prove that lead paint exposure was the cause of Stevenson's mental illnesses. Specifically, the Maryland Court of Appeals points to Maryland Rule 5-702(3) which states that a court must determine "whether a sufficient factual basis exists to support the expert testimony."
"The trial court abused its discretion in permitting her [Dr. Cecilia Hall-Carrington] to opine that lead exposure can cause ADHD generally and that lead caused Stevenson's ADHD specifically," Judge Sally Adkins said in a recent press release.
Scientists have debated as to whether lead paint exposure is a cause of ADHD; studies have pointed to elevated blood lead levels causing a range of behavioral problems. Still, none have pinpointed lead to be an exact cause of ADHD.
The court has remanded the case to Baltimore Circuit Court to review a new trial over damages.
To learn more about the case, visit Maryland State's Official Records. To learn more about lead paint safety, visit Zack Academy's lead homepage.