Portsmouth Lead Poisoning Case Is Prepared Over Child Illness
When a housing authority places its residents in danger, it is open to potential lawsuits for illnesses and deaths. Few public housing complexes have received such a bad press as Swanson Homes in Portsmouth over recent years. This year, a Portsmouth lead poisoning case was being prepared after a mother claimed her toddler became sick.
A report in The Virginian-Pilot noted lawyers representing Irene Cuffee are planning to sue Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
Cuffee claims her son suffered from lead poisoning after he ate paint chips from the floor while living at Swanson Homes. He reportedly suffered from hallucination and bloody stools.
Norfolk based injury attorney Richard Serpe is working on a potential Portsmouth lead poisoning case against PRHA, The Pilot reported.
The lawyer has written to the authority instructing it to retain records that include emails, photographs and reports related to testing for lead at the public housing complex.
The Pilot report stated the toddler’s blood was tested after he ate paint. Cuffee’s son’s blood was tested as part of a Head Start school program requirement. Results released in September 2015 found 28.7 micrograms of lead in the child’s blood, according to documentation from the housing authority.
Lead is an extremely toxic metal and a strong poison. Lead poisoning can cause severe mental and physical impairment in children and even death. It occurs when the metal builds up in the body.
Lead poisoning usually occurs over a period of months or years. Lead-based paint and contaminated dust are the most hazardous sources of the metal for children in the United States. Lead-based paints were banned for use in construction in 1978. Homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. Problems arise when the lead deteriorates.
Under Virginia state law, an investigation is required when lead levels of 10 micrograms or higher are found in the child’s blood.
Cuffee said her son’s temperature rose to 104 degrees and he suffered from bloody stools and constipation after ingesting the paint.
The authority said it was removing old paint and giving a new coat of paint to exterior doors and lintels at the time of the incident. The family was later moved to the newer Kings Square apartments.
Swanson Homes was built in 1941 and is one of the oldest public housing complexes in Hampton Roads.
It suffered a litany of problems. In 2016, 32 properties were marked as condemned after residents had no heat or hot water for the weeks following Hurricane Matthew.
Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority (PRHA) told residents they would remain in hotels temporarily and eventually move into Lincoln Park properties. The storm forced at least 66 families out of Swanson Homes.
In 2012, Leroy and Inez Stith were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning at their apartment in Swanson Homes.
PRHA officials said the Stiths were given new carbon monoxide detectors in the month before their deaths, and they never went off alerting anybody to potentially deadly levels of carbon monoxide.
A report on the TV station WTKR NewsChannel 3 found alarms were continuously being replaced by workers.
In one unit, defective carbon monoxide detectors were changed out three times in the space of a month. In another, roach eggs and bugs were found inside detectors causing malfunctions.
We are concerned by the Portsmouth lead poisoning case and the poor safety record of Swanson Homes. All too often public housing in Hampton Roads is substandard, placing the lives of residents in danger. If you were hurt at a housing complex, you may have grounds to sue a housing provider, either in the public or the private sector. Call our Portsmouth personal injury lawyers at (757) 455-0077.