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AG files state's first lead-paint hazard suit

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In the first lawsuit of its kind in Indiana, the state attorney general's office is going after two Evansville landlords who it says have ignored warnings to correct a lead-paint environmental hazard in a rental house.

Joining the Vanderburgh County Health Department, the Indiana Attorney General's Office filed the suit today in State v. Mark R. Bryan and Tammy A. Bryan.

The Bryans own a 1918-built house on Mulberry Street in Evansville that they lease to tenants. During a lead-screening program for children in January 2008, one child of a tenant tested positive for elevated blood-lead levels. The Vanderburgh County Health Department alerted the tenant and also collected samples of paint, soil, and dust that tested positive for lead. Warnings were sent for two months, instructing the Bryans that the lead-based paint in the rental house was a health violation and required remediation measures, but no response or correction was ever made.

Lead paint has been banned for use in residential homes since 1978, and under the federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, owners must disclose any lead-paint hazards prior to selling or renting a home. The new suit seeks an injunction ordering the Bryans to immediately fix the issue, either by a licensed contractor removing the paint or by encapsulation of the lead-based paint by repainting it with latex paint.

The suit also seeks reimbursement of the government's costs, attorneys' fees, and any other legal costs.

While other states have pursued lead-paint public nuisance actions, this is the first time a suit has been filed in Indiana and the AG believes it could be used as a template for other Hoosier counties in the future.

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