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$1 Million Dollar Lead Paint settlement during trial

Copyright Allentown Morning Call Feb 25, 2004

Two days after Christmas 1996, Jamar Harris entered Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown with levels of lead in his blood four times higher than the threshold for poisoning.

The tot underwent intravenous therapy to flush the toxin out of his system.

Today, Jamar is a sociable and engaging 8-year-old whose developmental difficulties are scarcely evident behind a broad smile and boyish energy.

His family has agreed to accept $1 million to settle its lawsuit against the Allentown News Agency, a distributor of newspapers and other publications. The company owned the apartment building where Jamar apparently ingested the lead-based paint that caused his poisoning.

The trial started Monday before Lehigh County Judge Thomas A. Wallitsch. Both parties agreed to settle Tuesday morning.

The money, minus unspecified attorney fees, will be held in a trust fund for Jamar, who now lives with his family in Union County, N.J.

"At least I know my son will be taken care of if something happens in the future," said his mother, Shaconda White, adding she is "overwhelmed" by the disposition of the case.

The lawsuit, filed in 1997, contended that Jamar was poisoned and suffered brain damage after ingesting paint in the family's apartment in the 700 block of Liberty Street.

The family had received no warning of lead problems in the building, despite an earlier lead poisoning in another apartment in the building, the suit alleged.

Lead-poisoning lawsuits have grown increasingly common in recent years. Leonard Fodera, the Philadelphia attorney who represented Jamar and his family, said his office is handling 150 lead-poisoning cases from across the state. He was unsure whether any are in the Lehigh Valley.

Such cases draw attention to a public health problem that has persisted despite the elimination of lead-based house paint in the late 1970s. In most homes, such paint is harmless because it is buried under layers of non-lead paint. But if it is exposed and starts to flake and peel, it poses a potentially grave hazard.

Toddler-age children are especially vulnerable because they absorb lead more quickly than adults and engage in a great deal of hand-to-mouth activity.

If the blood level exceeds a certain threshold, the county initiates an environmental investigation, and in most cases traces the lead to paint in the child's home.

This informational piece was prepared by Silverman & Fodera. If you would like more information on this topic, call us at (800) 220-LAW1, or use the "Do I Have A Case?" link on this web site.