The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division has ruled that a Hoboken tenant can sue her former landlord a second time over lead poisoning from the water supply of her prior home.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Lourdes Gonzalez, her sister Emily Vermeal, and her daughter Miamuna Veale, sued her then-landlord at 908-910 Washington St. on August 22nd, 2016 over alleged “discriminatory and unconscionable conduct” to evict tenants.
They reached a settlement on May 23rd, 2018 that included a $55,000 payment to the plaintiffs and a two-year lease agreement between June 1st, 2018 and May 31st, 2020. According to the appellate court, this does not prevent Gonzalez from filing suit again.
“After the parties executed the agreement, plaintiff retained a building inspector to document her apartment’s condition at the commencement of her new lease. The inspector tested the apartment’s water in October 2018,” wrote Appellate Judges Francis J. Vernoia and Morris Smith.
“Plaintiff learned from the inspector’s report that the lead level in the apartment’s hot water supply was sixty times greater than the level permitted under federal regulations. Plaintiff next had her blood levels tested, and she learned she had an elevated lead level in her blood on January 11, 2019.”
From there, Gonzalez vacated the premises pursuant to the settlement agreement and the heater/domestic hot water system was “dismantled and discarded” in June 2020. As a result, Gonzalez sued her ex-landlord and S&B Plumbing on November 2nd, 2020.
She alleged that the lead levels in the apartment she was living in right over Amanda’s restaurant in Hoboken had lead levels in the water 67 times those permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In the court filing, she also claimed that she has sustained “serious permanent bodily injury” from lead poisioning.
The complaint was dismissed for lack of prosecution before being reinstated in January of this year, though the defendant’s motion to enforce the settlement and dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The appellate court decided this was the wrong outcome.
“The record is sufficient for us to conclude that, giving all inferences to the non-moving party, the trial court erred when it failed to find a genuine factual issue on the question of the parties’ intent when they settled the first lawsuit,” the court decided.
“In opposition to defendant’s motion to enforce settlement, plaintiff certified that she did not intend to give up any future claims for personal injury damages due to lead poisoning when she settled the first suit.”
As a result, the lower court’s decision has been reversed and remanded for further proceedings and the appellate court does not maintain jurisdiction.