Jury Reaches Verdict In Raleigh Housing Authority Trial
Posted July 23, 2003 7:32 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — The
Raleigh Housing Authority
will pay for dangerous conditions at the Walnut Terrace housing complex, but not as much as residents hoped.
Current and former residents of Walnut Terrace sued the Housing Authority, saying it was responsible for exposing them to carbon monoxide.
Jurors found in favor of 11 of the 19 plaintiffs, meaning they thought the Housing Authority was negligent in 11 of those cases.
The jury awarded $18,000 per plaintiff, for a total of $198,000 in damages. Willie Gary, a high-profile personal injury lawyer, had asked for $16 million on behalf of plaintiffs during closing arguments last week.
"We're a little disappointed, but what's most important is our clients finally had their day in court," said Mike Lewis, an attorney representing residents.
Lorraine Hinton and her son, Shawnessy, died in 1992 when deadly fumes from a boiler room leaked into their Walnut Terrace apartment. Other residents said they suffered health problems, which include asthma, memory loss and migraines, as a result of fumes.
Lawyers for the Housing Authority said the plaintiffs could not prove they suffered any side effects.
"Everybody who listened knew there were problems with the boiler system. Everybody who listened carefully knew there were certain people who could not have been exposed or had injuries," said Dan Hartzog of the Raleigh Housing Authority.
This case was the first to go to trial, but more than 100 Walnut Terrace residents are still suing the Housing Authority. Attorneys are not sure if Tuesday's verdict will encourage them to drop their lawsuit or hope for higher damages from a different jury.
The Housing Authority said it is not likely to appeal the verdict.