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Lead paint in home led to brain damage, plaintiff contended








Baltimore City


Baltimore City, Circuit Court

Injury Type(s):

brain-brain damage; other-lead poisoning; mental/psychological-cognition, impairment

Case Type:

Toxic Torts – Lead Poisoning; Premises Liability – Apartment, Tenant’s Injury, Dangerous Condition, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance

Case Name:

Savon Johnson v. City Homes, Incorporated, Barry Mankowitz and City Homes III, LP,
No. 24-C-13-001215


February 22, 2019



Savon Johnson (Male, 24 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Robert J. Leonard;
Law Offices Of Evan K. Thalenberg, P.A.;
Savon Johnson ■ Matthew B. Thompson;
Law Offices Of Evan K. Thalenberg, P.A.;
Savon Johnson

Plaintiff Expert(s):

R. Cavaliere; Lead Paint Testing; Baltimore,
MD called by:
Robert J. Leonard ■ Alma Robinson-Josey; M.D.; Pediatrics; Owings Mills,
MD called by:
Robert J. Leonard ■ Mark Lieberman; CRC; Vocational Rehabilitation; Forest Hill,
MD called by:
Robert J. Leonard ■ Barry Hurwitz; Ph.D; Neuropsychology; Baltimore,
MD called by:
Robert J. Leonard ■ Michael Conte; Ph.D.; Life Care Planning; Phoenix,
AZ called by:
Robert J. Leonard ■ Charlene Sweeney; M.D.; Neurology; Petoskey,
MI called by:
Robert J. Leonard


Barry Mankowitz, 

City Homes Inc., 

City Homes III, LP

Defense Attorney(s):

David A. Carter;
The Carter Law Offices, LLC;
Barry Mankowitz, City Homes Inc., City Homes III, LP ■ Letam Duson;
The Carter Law Offices, LLC;
Barry Mankowitz, City Homes Inc., City Homes III, LP

Defendant Expert(s):

James Patrick;
Vocational Rehabilitation/Counseling;
FL called by:
David A. Carter, Letam Duson ■ Gloria Morote;
VA called by:
David A. Carter, Letam Duson ■ Joseph Scheller;
Pediatric Neurology;
MD called by:
David A. Carter, Letam Duson ■ Patrick Connor;
Lead Paint Testing;
MD called by:
David A. Carter, Letam Duson


Penn National Insurance Co. for City Homes Inc. and City Homes III


From January 1996 to August 1996, plaintiff Savon Johnson, a 2-year-old boy, lived with his mother and older brother at 903 N. Duncan St., in Baltimore. Four months prior to moving into the Duncan Street residence, Johnson had an elevated blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter. In August 1996, a test revealed that Johnson’s blood lead level was 15 mcg/dL. Shortly after leaving that address, Johnson’s blood lead level fell to 7 mcg/dL. Johnson claimed that he suffered permanent brain damage and cognitive impairment. Johnson sued City Homes Inc. and City Homes III, LP, the owners and operators of the North Duncan Street residence, as well as Barry Mankowitz, president of City Homes. Johnson alleged that the house had contained lead-based paint hazards that led to his permanent brain damage. He further alleged that the owners had been negligent in failing to ensure the house was free from lead hazards and were thus liable for his injuries. Johnson’s mother testified that there was flaking and chipping paint in the residence during the relevant period of her tenancy. However, no lead inspection was done on the property during litigation because the residence, which had been sold to the city of Baltimore, had been torn down before the lawsuit was commenced. City Homes claimed that it had tested the property for the presence of lead-based paint in 1993 when City Homes first purchased the property. According to City Homes, limited abatement was done at the time. Mankowitz testified that City Homes did not remove all the lead from the property and it was not lead-free. The house was noted to contain original wood trim that had deteriorated during the period when Johnson inhabited it.


Johnson, who was 24 at the time of trial, said he was exposed to lead-based paint hazards while living at the North Duncan Street address. He claimed he was diagnosed with his highest elevated blood lead level while he resided at that location. Since leaving 903 North Duncan Street, Johnson claimed he has suffered from cognitive deficits and permanent brain damage. He asserted that he has been unable to remain employed due to his brain injuries. Johnson’s medical expert testified that Johnson suffered a loss of up to 8 IQ points and suffers cognitive deficits in areas of attention and executive function. Johnson’s pediatrics and neurology experts opined that the North Duncan Street home more likely than not contained deteriorated lead-based paint that was ingested by Johnson and substantially contributed to his lead poisoning. Johnson’s lead risk assessment expert noted that 903 North Duncan was built as early as 1920, a time when lead paint was most commonly used to paint homes. Johnson sought economic and non-economic damages, including loss of earning capacity. The defense contended that Johnson was exposed to lead someplace other than 903 North Duncan Street. The defense further contended that Johnson was not injured due to his lead exposure, pointing to the fact that he can function normally and has good artistic ability.


The jury found that City Homes Inc. and City Homes III were liable for not removing the deteriorated lead paint from the home. The jury awarded a total of $2.2 million. The defendants’ insurer covered the damages.

Savon Johnson: $1,100,000 Personal Injury: economic damages; $1,100,000 Personal Injury: noneconomic damages

Trial Information:


Philip Jackson




$525,000 (before deliberations)

Post Trial:

A motion to reduce the noneconomic damages portion of the verdict is pending.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.