GAVEL TO GAVEL

The Brooklyn Paper

Suit falls like a lead balloon

A lead paint suit filed against the New York City Housing Authority was shot down in court when the agency proved that they weren’t in control of the building where the child ingested the harmful material.

In court papers, Judge Robert Miller dismissed the complaint against the Housing Authority, which showed documentation that Krystal Williams and her infant son Damiek did not live in an agency-controlled building when the toddler became sick.

Court papers show that, with the Housing Authority’s help, mother and son received a Section 8 voucher and moved from a housing project in Brooklyn to a privately owned apartment building in Far Rockaway, Queens.

But, in September, 2005, when the family was already in their Queens home, the Housing Authority received a call that Damiek had been hospitalized for lead poisoning and that the Department of Health had told Krystal to vacate the premises.

Williams sued the Housing Authority because they authorized the transfer, managed the Section 8 money that allowed her to get the apartment and had inspected the apartment before the family moved in.

During the inspection, the Housing Authority said “no problems were discovered” in the apartment, according to court papers.

Williams sued the Housing Authority for negligence for “transferring them into the property which was subsequently found to contain lead.”

Miller, however, sided with the Housing Authority’s contention that their only involvement in case regarding the child’s illness “relates to its status as a public housing agency under Section 8.”

Court employees get no respect

City attorneys handling a simple slip and fall case in Bay Ridge filed for a change of venue out of Brooklyn recently when they discovered that the plaintiff works at the Kings County courthouse.

After discovering that plaintiff Robert Palma is the Case Management Coordinator for the Kings County Office of Court Administration, city attorneys felt “an impartial trial cannot be had in the proper county” and asked Judge Robert Miller to move the case to either Manhattan or the Bronx.

“Mr. Palma is well known by virtually all employees of the courthouse and is also extremely well liked,” city attorneys noted in their change of venue motion. “Additionally, he is a supervisor and is in a position at the Courthouse. The city respectfully suggests that the reputation of the Courts for strict impartiality in the administration of justice would be better maintained by avoiding even the lightest ground for suspicion as to the fairness at trial.”

Palma, who has worked at the Kings County courthouse for 28 years, alleges that he tripped and fell on a defective New York City “Water Cap” in front of a home on 82nd Street.

Both the City of New York and the owner of the Bay Ridge property he fell in front of have been listed as defendants in the case.

His attorneys refuted the venue change, claiming that the city did not meet its burden of “showing facts which demonstrate a strong possibility of an impartial trial.”

Since Palma’s duties at the courthouse are “totally facilities related” and that he has “virtually no contact with courtroom proceedings,” the case should continue in Brooklyn, they said.

Judge Miller found in favor of the city, claiming that “a key court employee whose job of necessity has him interacting with Justices and their staff” like Palma “mandates transfer to avoid the appearance of partiality.”

But the city didn’t get exactly what they wanted either – Judge Miller sent the case to Queens.

Stunting his growth

While most contractors lose money if the project they’re working on doesn’t go south, this one may lose time – a lot of it.

Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes announced last week that he had indicted the Long Island based contractor for the death of one of his workers killed in a construction collapse.

Officials said that William Lattarulo and his team was building a laundromat on Glenmore Avenue in East New York back in March when the buckling foundation of the neighboring home gave way and fell on top of 30-year-old Lauro Ortega, an undocumented immigrant worker receiving $100 a day for his services.

Lattarulo owned both properties, officials said.

Investigators determined that the collapse occurred because Lattarulo ignored repeated recommendations that he shore up the foundation to the neighboring building, since the foundation for the laundromat was a lot deeper that the adjacent property.

Lattarulo was charged with manslaughter in the second degree and two counts of reckless endangerment.

“If not for this defendant’s callous selfishness and complete disregard for the safety of his workers, Lauro Ortega would be alive today,” District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a statement. “In his hasty attempt to cut corners and reduce his own expenses, William Lattarulo cost another man his life.”


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