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Rhode Island Supreme Court overturns superior court judgement against former manufacturers of lead pigment

By Tim Wright

Published July 2, 2008
The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently overturned a 2006 jury verdict against former manufacturers of lead pigment used in house paint decades ago. The National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA), which filed an amicus brief with the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the state's public nuisance action against former lead pigment manufacturers (Rhode Island v. LIA, et al), hailed the Supreme Court decision as consistent with the state's precedence of applying public nuisance doctrine, as well as all other major state supreme court rulings, including New Jersey, Missouri, and Illinois, involving historical lead-based paint and pigment sales.

Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams wrote for the court, “We conclude that the state has not and cannot allege any set of facts to support its public nuisance claim that would establish that defendants interfered with a public right or that defendants were in control of the lead pigment they, or their predecessors, manufactured at the time it caused harm to Rhode Island children.”

“The attempt by plaintiffs' attorneys and state legal officers to stretch public nuisance theory far beyond its normal applications to avoid statutes of limitations and other requisite legal boundaries has now been summarily rebuked by the Rhode Island Supreme Court,” said Thomas J. Graves, NPCA vice president and general counsel.

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