Jury clears Lewiston landlords of liability

AUBURN — A jury sided with Lewiston landlords in a lawsuit that claimed they were responsible for a tenant's lead poisoning.

Six members of the jury of five women and four men determined after three and a half hours of deliberation that Double Eagle Properties LLC shouldn't be held liable for the elevated blood-lead levels of 7-year-old Sami Tag who lived in an apartment at 93 Walnut St. in Lewiston.

At just over age 2 , Tag's test for blood-lead levels showed he was many times over the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended limits.

William D. Robitzek, attorney for plaintiff Ali Tag, argued during closing arguments after five days of testimony that the building's owners should have replaced windows in the apartment that created dust that contained lead paint.

Sami Tag suffered permanent brain damage as a result of high blood-lead levels, Robitzek said. Tag has behavioral problems, a lowered IQ and learning disabilities.

"It would have been easy for Double Eagle to prevent this harm from happening," Robitzek told the jury during closing arguments Monday in Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Doctors who testified at the trial said Tag's heightened blood-lead levels would explain his current problems.

Robitzek, who argued for a jury award of more than $11 million, said the boy likely would have to live in a group home where his needs are cared for.

The verdict was "really unfortunate for the family," which is going to have to rely on taxpayers to help pay for Sami Tag's care the rest of his life, Robitzek said Tuesday.

Matica Douglas, who represented landlords Rick and Cheryl Breton, said the jury's verdict was proper based on the facts of the case.

"The evidence was not there to prove that this was my clients' responsibility," she said. "There was no neglect."

The landlords had painted the entire apartment with the proper, highly durable paint before Sami Tag moved in. The owners complied with all local, state and federal legal requirements regarding lead paint, Douglas said.

Moreover, they made the proper disclosures and Rick Breton even took a class in lead paint treatment "because he wanted to make sure he did things right," Douglas told the jury during her closing argument.

An inspection done before Sami Tag moved in OK'd it for occupancy, Douglas said.

After Tag's blood-lead levels sparked concerns, Double Eagle followed the prescribed guidelines, Douglas said.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy instructed the jury to first consider whether the defendants were negligent, then whether their negligence was the legal cause of Tag's damages.

The jury was told the threshold of proof for a verdict was a preponderance of evidence.

Both sides had stipulated that 90 percent of Lewiston's housing stock has lead paint. A verdict favoring the plaintiff may have had a chilling effect on area apartment rentals to families with children, Douglas said.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Andrew Jones's picture

I love how none of these

I love how none of these comments, including this one, have anything to do with the content of the article. Haha

Tina Clukey's picture

don't attack

really Dan?? Now you want to start with me?? and my remark?? I don't have a clan by the way to impress, you on the other hand I think really enjoys a good banter session, you just LIKE to point out error's, but for some reason they alway are followed by a remark and for 99.99% of the time they are not really nice, just sayin, and again Have a nice day and enjoy life, your sweating to much on the small stuff :)

Tina Clukey's picture

proofreader

Maybe you should apply for a proof reader job Dan, they can alway use a good eye, and then maybe you will learn to play in the sand box in a much nicer way :)

Tina Clukey's picture

missed spelled

LOl Dont worry Heather your just fine, now Dan on the other hand he really has nothing better to do all day other then insult,point out and be rude and feels he's right all the time, Ive only been on here a few weeks and I love to read everyones comments and like how folks are putting there voices out there, but for Dam Breton he's just not a happy person, well at least on here, can only wonder what's he like in person.......
It's kind of sad to be that unhappy and act the way he does on here.
And not to mention, I do believe your a smarty and shouldn't worry about what he thinks, :)

Heather Sullivan's picture

Perfect?!

And you, Mr. Breton, are perfect by any means?! Give him a break! We all make errors, even myself and clearly Mr. Williams, and I am most certainly postitive that YOU make errors as well!! Cut some slack!

Heather Sullivan's picture

Granted, he did fix the error

Granted, he did fix the error without acknowledging his wrong but do you honestly need to have the 'thank you Mr. Breton for pointing out my error when I was too quick to type and hit the wrong key'....I don't know about you Mr. Breton, but I do work on a computer all day long and when you are quick to type, errors do occur, even ones that spell check will not show because the word is spelled correctly, just not appropriately. These reporters just want to get the stories out quick and efficently because it is news, it is what they report for us to read. It does happen. I see it all the time, not only from Sun Journal, but the news channels that post their news on other forums such as Facebook and such. And everyone is quick to mention the errors. If you can understand what is being read, then why point it out? I realize that they are the ones that make the money as opposed to the rest of us, but being said, they are only human, as well as you and I. They are allowed to make mistakes just like the rest of us do. No one is perfect and I will be the first to admit so...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

A camel has a better chance

A camel has a better chance of strutting through the eye of a needle than your message has of being understood by its recipient. Gallant try, though.

Heather Sullivan's picture

Oh oops! I misspelled

Oh oops! I misspelled 'positive'...you gonna rip my head off for my error too? Like I said, NOT PERFECT!!

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