Sureway Supermaket escapes lead paint allegations in lawsuit

By Mary Ann Magnell | Sep 6, 2018

The couple filed the lawsuit after the defendants fired them in 2016.  

NEW ORLEANS — A supermarket is not liable for the lead-based paint in an apartment provided to employees, a federal judge ruled.

On Aug. 27, Judge Susie Morgan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted a motion for partial summary judgment in favor of Walter H. Maples Inc., Shelly Jambon and SHH Properties LLC. The judge similarly denied partial summary judgment for Vivian and Michael Patz in their lawsuit alleging violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction act (RLBPHRA). 

“The court finds plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of showing they are entitled to judgement as a matter of law on their RLBPHRA,” Morgan wrote, noting the statute only allows recovery of damages if the property owner "knowingly violates" the law. 

“This court need not resolve the issue here: the uncontested facts show no defendant had knowledge either of the Act’s requirements or of a lead-based paint hazard in the property at 176 Nacarri Lane,” Morgan wrote. “Because these facts are undisputed, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether defendant knowingly violated the RLBPHRA.” 

The defendants operate the Sureway Supermarket.

The couple filed the lawsuit after the defendants fired them in 2016. They allege the supermarket fired Mrs. Patz, because she became pregnant. The couple was subsequently evicted from an apartment provided upon a condition of their employment. The plaintiffs claim that they were not provided disclosures regarding “lead based paint or lead-based paint hazards before the beginning of their tenancy.” 

In addition to the RLBPHRA, the Patzs alleged violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, Louisiana Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act. Further, the plaintiffs assert trespass and breach-of-contract claims under Louisiana law. 

The other claims are ongoing. 

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, Civil Action No. 17-3465

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