August 14, 2018, New York, NY — Levy Konigsberg attorneys Corey Stern, Renner Walker, and Brendan Little won a landmark legal victory for residents of New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) residents who are victims of lead poisoning in the federal district court for the Southern District of New York. The LK lawyers filed a class action lawsuit asserting NYCHA’s deliberate policy not to conduct inspections for lead-based paint hazards, and NYCHA’s years-long practice of falsely certifying its compliance with federal law to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).
In November 2017, the Department of Investigation for New York City revealed that NYCHA had not conducted appropriate testing for lead paint and dust at NYCHA’s 176,066 apartments across 2,462 buildings in 326 housing developments across the City. Indeed, NYCHA had conducted no inspections of common areas for lead-paint hazards for thirteen years. NYCHA also admitted to making false pubic statements to HUD and to using untrained, unlicensed workers to perform various lead paint inspection, remediation, and abatement in violation of federal law.
Lead-based paint is dangerous to young children when it chips, flakes or is contained on friction surfaces, like window sills, where dust can be created. Children are most susceptible to ingesting lead paint because of how their mobility evolves from rolling around on the ground; to learning to crawl; to learning to prop oneself up; to being able to stand; to walking. Children are of course notoriously prone to placing things in their mouth. To compound matters, lead-based paint chips have a sweet taste, so that if a child puts one in his mouth, he will likely enjoy the taste and be prone to do it repeatedly. And once a child ingests a certain amount of lead he/she will be lead poisoned. Even if the lead is flushed from the child’s body, the poisoning that occurs is irreversible. Children that suffer brain damage from lead poisoning are far more likely to be held back in school or to drop out altogether. They are far less likely to go to college. They have higher instances of depression and issues with anger management. And they are less capable of holding a job when they become adults. In short, the consequences of childhood lead poisoning are lifelong and tragic.
NYCHA, as well as New York City and the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, moved to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming the persistent wrongdoing LK attorneys established should not have any legal consequences. However, the Manhattan-based federal court ruled that NYCHA’s and the City’s failures and mendacity may constitute a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and the Federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazards Reduction Act (“RLPHRA”).
The FHA makes it unlawful to “discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” Regarding the FHA, the Court held the Plaintiffs had adequately pled that “NYCHA’s acts caused significantly adverse or disproportion impact on persons of a particular type—families with young children” in part because “children are the primary, if not exclusive, victims of lead paint poisoning.” The Court also held that New York City and the Mayor’s Office could not escape liability for NYCHA’s wrongdoing because “NYCHA’s Chairperson and board members are appointed by the Mayor and serve at this pleasure” and because the Plaintiffs pled that Mayor de Blasio “publicly insisted that he, and therefore the City of New York, was responsible for NYCHA.”
RLPHRA requires a landlord to disclose any known lead-based paint hazards and the existence of any available records or reports pertaining to those hazards, as well as the basis for the determination that the lead-based paint hazards exist. Regarding RLPHRA, LK attorneys alleged that NYCHA failed to prove information concerning lead paint in NYCHA units, such as testing, repairs, and abatement. Furthermore, even if NYCHA made some disclosures, they were knowingly false, incomplete, and inaccurate. The Court also held that the Plaintiffs’ claims were not barred by the statute of limitations since NYCHA not only failed to provide the required disclosures when Plaintiffs initially moved into their apartments, but also upon subsequent lease renewals.
The Court’s ruling today is a crucial first step to bringing accountability, transparency, and justice to NYCHA. Levy Konigsberg attorneys handle complex cases involving lead poisoning across the country. We can help you obtain the compensation you and children deserve. We have recovered over $ 100 million in verdicts and settlements and can advocate for all lead poisoned victims, including residents of NYCHA public housing developments in New York City. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling us at 1-800-988-8005, emailing us, submitting a web form, or taking advantage of the live chat function.