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Baltimore's Housing Authority Says It Can't Afford To Pay For Lead Paint Poisoning Claim

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Victims of lead paint poisoning successfully sue the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, but they aren't getting the money a jury awarded.

That agency tells Suzanne Collins it just doesn't have much cash.

India Austin was first tested with high levels of lead paint poisoning while living in a city-owned house at age 6. She's been kicked out of schools for behavior problems that may be linked to those toxic paint flakes, and at age 19 her life isn't much better.

"I have a bad attitude," Austin said. "I cannot function right. I can never get a job. I take my anger out on everyone, in and out of jail, in and out of hospitals."

Austin is one of hundreds of people bringing lawsuits against the HABC over lead paint poisoning, claiming health problems have damaged their lives forever.

Juries recently found housing at fault and awarded monetary damages. But the city isn't paying.

"We've already put in motion to seize all their vehicles, all their personal property," said David Albright Jr., plantiff's lawyer. "We're going after bank accounts of theirs. We want to bring them to justice. [They] have to realize they can't sweep problems under the rug."

HABC, a quasi-public agency, says it "faces over $800 million in clams and is in no financial position to pay these claims and still provide decent safe and affordable housing for our current families, seniors and persons with disabilities. Serving our city's most vulnerable populations is our first priority."

One state delegate who's championed lead paint legislation says the city has a responsibility like any other landlord.

"The children will not recover, so especially here, the city -- in addition to its legal obligation -- has a moral responsibility," said Del. Sandy Rosenberg.  

The city says it would rather use its money abating lead paint in homes to protect children now rather than spend it on people poisoned long ago.

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