On Friday, a Bronx jury decided that Tiesha Jones should be awarded a $57 million verdict against the Housing Authority in New York City over the dangerously high levels of lead found in her daughter Dakota’s blood.
Jones, 38, moved into the Fort Independence development in 1999 and was shocked when at 4-years old, her daughter Dakota started showing a level of 45 micrograms per deciliter of lead in her blood in 2010. That’s nine times the acceptable level.
She is now thrilled by the vindication calling NYCHA authorities “liars” for saying that her apartment didn’t have any lead in it.
“I was overjoyed. I was crying nonstop,” Jones said of the decision, according to the New York Daily News. “The tenants don’t have any hope here. It’s like we’re an afterthought. They’re ruining our quality of life. They’re ruining our hopes and dreams.”
Dakota was ultimately put into special education classes because of the lead, which is believed to cause developmental delays in children who are exposed.
“The damage had already been done,” Jones said. “She didn’t have a chance to go to regular school … She got held over in special ed in second grade.”
Jones said that she felt “betrayed” by the NYCHA.
“I was mortified. They sent me letters every year stating that there’s no lead in the apartment. Here I was thinking I was safe, taking care of my children,” said the mother of six.
Two inspections in 2006 and 2008 were marked “completed” but showed no indication that there had been any checks for lead. And after Dakota’s lead levels were discovered, a Department of Health inspection found lead paint present in the family home.
NYCHA did its own test, which they said didn’t show any lead in the apartment. They used this finding to try to dismiss Jones’ suit against them. However, the Daily News noted that NYCHA has come under fire for not using certified workers for its inspections.
Jones sued NYCHA and an appeals court ruled that a jury should decide on the case, given the conflicting results.
A message in a verdict
Jones’ attorney, Thomas Giuffra, said that the verdict was “totally a message” to NYCHA.
“They’ve known since 1960 there shouldn’t be lead in these apartments,” he said. “Shouldn’t they have taken care of it by now?”
According to NYCHA spokeswoman, Jasmine Blake, NYCHA is in talks with Jones for a settlement.
“NYCHA is clearly disappointed with the jury’s verdict but looks forward to the final settlement of this matter upon terms agreed to by the plaintiffs,” she said.