Local News

Wake Housing Trial Finally Gets Started

Posted June 26, 2003

— People who used to live in a Raleigh public housing complex finally will have their day in court, 11 years after they were exposed to deadly fumes.

People who lived in Walnut Terrace say it was a human gas chamber during the early 90s. Leaking pipes in a boiler room sent carbon monoxide fumes into Lorraine Hinton's apartment, killing Hinton and her son in 1992.

Orries Foster remembers the panic after the death of her neighbors.

"You were living in Hell with no way out," Foster said.

Foster lived at Walnut Terrace with her daughter, who was 11 at the time, and her son, who was 9. She said exposure to carbon monoxide caused asthma, allergies, memory loss and other problems.

She said the heaviest toll was emotional. Her daughter, now a college student, still has nightmares.

"She sleeps by a fan," Orries Foster said. "She thinks the fan will keep her safe, and she won't die in her sleep. She wakes up and thinks everyone is dead but her."

Foster and her children are among 25 former residents whose lawsuit against the Raleigh Housing Authority goes to trial this week.

Years ago, the Wake Housing Authority settled with Hinton's family for nearly $1 million. But lawyers for the Housing Authority say Foster and her neighbors can't prove they were harmed.

"I don't think these plaintiffs in this case have evidence of injury from carbon monoxide," said Housing Authority attorney Dan Hartzog.

Responded Orries Foster: "We will be damaged for the rest of our lives -- the rest of our lives.

"How do you correct that injustice?" she said.

Attorneys for the former residents have hinted that jurors could begin to correct the past with a multi-million dollar verdict against the Housing Authority.

With the jury seated Thursday in the case, opening arguments are slated for Friday morning.


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