Fidelma Fitzpatrick is the February 2014 Mom on a Mission finalist!
February 11, 2014
By Fidelma Fitzpatrick, Motley Rice LLC Member/Lead Trial Counsel for California Lead Case
Fidelma Fitzpatrick is Healthy Child Healthy World’s February finalist for our 2014 Mom on a Mission® award. Read her first-person story below on how she became an advocate for children’s health.
I wear many different hats during any day—trial lawyer, firm member, wife, mother, community contributor. But among the most significant roles I focus on is one of the most important, yet under-supported and highlighted health issues for children in the United States today: lead paint and lead poisoning. My lead paint work is much more than a job; it is a passion.
For nearly 20 years, I have been working with public health advocates and local and state legal counsel throughout the country to fight to make accountable the companies that knowingly used and marketed lead paint for use in homes. The result would be that public health entities would be given the funds they desperately need to effectively remove and abate lead paint that remains in homes built before 1978. In California, that’s an estimated 2.5 million homes.
Since the early 2000s, I have been working with California cities and states, as well as co-counsel, to bring this case before state courts. Through a long drawn out legal process in which the opposition, some of the country’s largest lead pigment companies today and for decades prior, threw every possible wrench they could to try to stop having to take responsibility and fund the necessary abatement, the case finally went before a California judge in late summer 2013.
On January 8, 2014, Judge Kleinberg issued a final decision of $1.15 billion toward the abatement for homes in the 10 California jurisdictions.
For me, the idea that any child lives in a house with a known toxin is reprehensible—and even more so when it disproportionately affects poor and minority children. Many generations have already been poisoned in the place they are supposed to be safest—their own homes. To add insult to injury, the industry continually engages in a game of blame the mom—she doesn’t clean her house enough, she doesn’t care about her children enough, she isn’t prioritizing her family enough. My personal favorite? Moms of poisoned children who work are criticized for not being “present” enough to protect their children and moms of poisoned children who don’t work are criticized for not doing more to raise their family out of poverty or into safer home. It’s the ultimate catch-22.
Unfortunately the California decision does not mean that all the work is done. There are likely to be a number of appeals to try to halt the payment. To learn more about the California lead paint case, read my recent blog. If interested in voicing your support for the California decision, please contact me.
Know an amazing mom who is making a difference? Nominate her to be one of our Mom on a Mission® finalists! Learn more about Healthy Child Healthy World’s 2013 Mom on a Mission campaign by visiting Healthychild.org/mission. A special thank you to our sponsors Ology.