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Lead Paint Lawsuit Gets Rolling in Rhode Island



Published August 10, 2005
l The U.S. paint and coatings industry has its eye on the tiny state of Rhode Island this fall. The state is the location of the “lead paint public nuisance” lawsuit that will prove to be a major milestone, regardless of the outcome.
If Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse can prove that lead paint is a public nuisance, he can proceed with a separate trial to determine if the defendants are liable. This first trial–which began Sept. 4—was expected to last up to 10 weeks.
Paint makers are fighting to prove that landlords should be held responsible for cleanup of lead paint and pigment–which can remain safely contained if proper maintenance is kept up.
Bonnie Campbell, former Democratic Attorney General of Iowa and an advisor to the defendants, said that the answer to the question put to the six-person jury is easy. “We know the vast majority of homes in Rhode Island and across the country are well maintained and families raise children in them safely every day. State and federal health and environmental officials agree that intact, well-cared for lead paint is safe, and that is the case here in Rhode Island.”
Ms. Campbell, continued, “There is a targeted solution for this targeted problem. Effective enforcement by the Attorney General focusing on the few landlords who are not fulfilling their responsibilities would immediately help the children of Rhode Island. This lawsuit will not protect a single child nor clean up a single home.”
Just a day after the Rhode Island suit got under way, Chicago filed a similar lead paint lawsuit in the circuit court of Cook County. The city is demanding the money to treat and clean up lead paint, as well as compensatory damages, punitive damages and reimbursement for legal expenses.
“All we’re saying here is that it’s time that the taxpayers don’t bear the burden of having to abate this nuisance,” said Chicago attorney Mara Georges. “Instead, the people that are responsible for having created the nuisance should come in and fund the abatement program.”
Defendants in the Chicago case include Sherwin-Williams Co., E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., The Glidden Company, N.L. Industries, Inc., American Cyanamid Co., Atlantic Richfield Co., BP Corporation North America Inc., BP America Inc., Millennium Chemicals Inc., Millennium Inorganic Chemicals, The O’Brien Corp. and the Chicago Paint and Coatings Association.
Ms. Campbell issued the following statement about the Chicago case: “We are disappointed that the city of Chicago has taken this unwarranted step. Litigation will not solve the problems that come from poorly maintained housing, and it will not help the children of Chicago. Lengthy litigation will drain resources and attention from programs that work to reduce the hazard to children. This is a targeted problem with a proven solution. Education, maintenance by property owners and enforcement by government is the way to protect children


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