Law student and UO employee sue university after living in house with lead-based paint

A University of Oregon affiliated couple is suing the university for failing to maintain an habitable living environment for its tenants, according to a court document.

UO law student Shannon Wilhite and UO Greenhouse Manager Brian Dykstra filed a lawsuit on Sept. 8 accusing the university of failing “to abate a lead-based paint” in the living space they rent from the university.

The couple signed a lease with UO for a house located on Moss Street. The couple, originally from California, moved into the house with their 2-year-old, and Wilhite pursued her law degree. The house is located a few blocks away from the UO School of Law and the Moss Street Child Care Center.

But things changed for the worse.

“The property became uninhabitable and they had to vacate the property,” the lawsuit document states.

The plaintiffs were exposed to lead-based paint and have suffered several economic damages, the document states, including contamination of the plaintiffs’ personal property, the cost to repair or replace, the expenses for moving and the cost of diagnostic tests and sampling associated with the lead contamination.

“It was reasonably foreseeable that if Defendant was negligent in maintaining the building and grounds, its occupants could become ill and their property could become contaminated,” the lawsuit document says.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to lead-based paint can harm tenants, especially young children. It can affect their brains and nervous systems, plus cause problems in hearing, behaving and learning. Federal laws enacted in 1996 require landlord and sellers to disclose known information of the hazards to tenants prior to signing contracts or leases.

The couple ultimately moved out of the house and is now seeking $74,017 for economic reasons.

The Emerald was able to reach the plaintiffs on Sept. 20 through a phone call, but they declined to comment on the case. Their attorney did not respond to The Emerald‘s phone calls.

The university has not responded to the lawsuit. If UO fails to file a motion in response by Oct. 8, the plaintiff will win the case automatically.


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Tran Nguyen

Tran Nguyen

Crime and Court senior reporter, specializing in sorting through non-interactive spreadsheet. Formerly reporting on ASUO, Housing and Construction.

Send tips to [email protected] Follow me on Twitter @tranngngn. K thanks bye.