If homeowners and insurers aren’t responsible for lead paint, who is?


–A Virginia real estate developer was on vacation in the Caribbean when he learned that a tenant had obtained a $2 million judgment against him for lead paint poisoning. “Bummer,” the man thought, Ellen Gabler tells the New York Times, “How am I going to get out of this?” According to the tenant’s attorney, the developer played a “corporate shell game”, selling and distributing its assets through its network of limited liability companies. The tenant, tired of the dispute, accepts a settlement of $140,000. Half went to lawyers and the other half to a trust for the disabled child at the heart of the case. As Gabler writes, it’s a common practice across America, and it’s a situation made worse by the fact that many insurers no longer include lead in their policies.

Government regulations and programs have dramatically reduced the incidence of lead poisoning over the past 40 years. But it’s far from being eliminated, and insurers have been pushing for lead exclusions to absolve themselves of liability; only a few states have restricted or banned 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 secure their buildings. More than 3.3 million housing units in the country are believed to have lead paint hazards and house young children; exposure can impact a child’s intelligence and behavior. “It’s a slow disaster that people just got used to,” says New York State Senator Sean Ryan, who tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would prevent exclusions from the lead insurance. (Read the full story for lots more.)


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