If Landlords and Insurers Aren't Liable for Lead Paint, Who Is?

Victims are left with little recourse these days
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2022 3:45 PM CDT
If Landlords and Insurers Aren't Liable for Lead Paint, Who Is?
   (Getty - DarrenTownsend)

A Virginia real estate developer was on a Caribbean vacation when he learned a tenant had won a $2 million judgement against him over lead paint poisoning. “Bummer,” the man thought, recounts Ellen Gabler for the New York Times, "How am I going to get out of this?" According to the tenant's lawyer, the developer played a "corporate shell game," selling and distributing his assets through his web of LLCs. The tenant, wearied by the litigation, agreed to a $140,000 settlement. Half went to lawyers and the other half into a trust for the disabled child at the heart of the case. As Gabler writes, this is common practice across America, and it's a situation worsened by the fact that many insurers no longer include lead in their policies.

Government regulations and programs have greatly reduced the incidence of lead poisoning over the last 40 years. But it's far from eliminated, and insurers have lobbied hard for lead exclusions to remove themselves from liability; only a handful of states have restricted or prohibited them. Insurers say that without them, premiums will jump and their industry will be destabilized. But their existence has removed a strong incentive for landlords to make their buildings safe. More than 3.3 million housing units in the country are thought to harbor lead paint hazards and house young children; exposure can impact a child's intelligence and behavior. "It's a slow-moving catastrophe that people have just gotten used to," says NY state Sen. Sean Ryan, who has tried, without success, to push legislation that would prevent lead insurance exclusions. (Read the full story for much more.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.