On January 9th, 2018, a Niagara County real estate agent was sentenced by a Federal County for failing to tell a home buyer about the lead paint that was used inside of the home. This type of paint is dangerous, especially to young children who are particularly susceptible.
Maureen Walck, the 73-year old broker, sold the Lockport home to an unsuspecting family, while she herself was well aware of the use of lead-based paint in the home.
The following year, in September 2015, the new owners of the home discovered that their child had been diagnosed with lead poisoning. Investigators claim that after one potential sale fell through, a second buyer made a compelling offer that was accepted.
The buyers did not know about the use of lead paint in the home because Walck had failed to inform them and there were no records about the use of lead-based paint in the sales contract.
U.S. Attorney James Kennedy, who covered the case, said that “The legal maxim of caveat emptor or ‘let the buyer beware’ has no applicability where, as here, the seller’s agent withholds information from the buyer notwithstanding her legal obligation to disclose the same. Indeed, the more apt lesson to be gleaned from this prosecution might well be ‘let the artful agent beware.’”
The evidence in the case suggests that on balance, Maureen Walck, the 73-year old broker, had maliciously avoided informing the new buyers about the use of lead-based paint. It was clear to the U.S. Attorney that Walck had knowledge about its use previously and was aware that it had not been removed.
Walck was Calculated in her Decision to Not Tell the Family
It’s believed that the first potential buyers, with whom the sale fell through, were made aware of the lead-based paint. Commentators noted that this suggests a calculated move to avoid informing the second potential buyers and subsequent purchasers, about the use of lead-based paint, despite knowing that they had a young child.
Research and studies have repeatedly proven that the use of lead-based paint in residential homes can have a significant effect on the brains of young children. By allowing a young family to move into the house Walck not only failed in her obligation to inform potential buyers about health risk, but she also endangered the life of a young child.
As punishment for her actions, Walck was convicted of failure to provide a lead paint hazard warning noticed, was sentenced to time served, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $53,326.07 in damages to the victims.
These damages are likely representative of the health bills that were incurred by the young family as they sought help for their child’s symptoms. Not only that, but these damages are also likely to include an extra amount for the irreversible harm and sadness that was caused.
Researchers have known the danger of lead poisoning for many decades now, and for this reason, the E.P.A. enacted stringent regulations about the use of lead in homes. In recent weeks a court ordered the government agency to submit new, stricter standards to them within 90-days, with the purpose of bringing them into practice within a year.
Lead Poisoning Can Harm People for Their Entire Lives
Scientists, government officials, and law professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of avoiding lead poisoning. Its impact can last a lifetime, causing children to be in pain as well as potentially experience reduced brain development.
In this case, Maureen Walck was found guilty of failing to inform a potential buyer about the risks in the home. For decades, this has been a requirement for real estate agents, so those unaware families like her victims are not forced to risk their health without their knowledge.
Lead poisoning is believed to be the cause of many children’s developmental delay, learning difficulties, weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal pain. Lead paint is now strictly regulated, with estimates from the World Health Organization suggesting that lead poisoning has killed 853,000 people.