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Rhode Island to Try First State Suit Over Lead Paint
Officials seek a massive cleanup
Margaret Cronin Fisk -- The National Law Journal -- 08-19-2002
The first state action seeking to hold the paint industry accountable for health hazards caused by lead paint used decades ago is about to go to trial on Sept. 4 in Providence, Rhode Island.
The state of Rhode Island is the plaintiff but isn't seeking compensation for injuries suffered by individuals exposed to lead. Instead, it is pursuing the novel claim that the defendant manufacturers and distributors of lead paint or lead created a public nuisance and should be held responsible for cleaning up what's remaining in hundreds of thousands of buildings in the state. If the jury says it does, later phases will consider fault and remedies, including damages. Also deferred until after the nuisance phases are the state's products liability claims over lead paint in state-owned buildings. Whitehouse v. Lead Industries Assoc., No. 99-5226 (Providence Co., R.I., Super. Ct.) (defendants are Lead Industries Association, Inc.: American Cyanamid Company; Atlantic Richfield Company; E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Company; The O'Brien Company; Conagra Grocery Products Company; The Glidden Company; NL Industries, Inc.; SCM Chemicals; The Sherwin-Williams Company; and John Doe Corporations). Read the Rhode Island Superior Court's decision.
-- Public nuisance claim charged by a dozen other cities and counties nationally
-- RI's is the flagship case
-- The potential cost could be enormous
-- After 15 years of litigation against the industry, including lawsuits brought by individual plaintiffs and public entities, the industry has never settled and the plaintiffs haven't gotten a penny.
-- Providence is the lead paint capital of the country with 25 percent of kindergarten children having elevated blood lead levels.
-- Plaintiffs allege that the industry knew lead was toxic dating back as early as 1904
-- Lead paint was completely banned by the federal government in 1978 and has not been sold for decades.
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