In an impressive victory for the paint industry, the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned the major verdict against three former lead paint producers. Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and Millennium Holdings LLC liable secured a 4-0 sweep of the court in a setback for advocates of these cases employing a novel use of nuisance law.
These cases would normally be filed as product liability actions. However, the statute of limitations has long run on such claims. By redefining the controversy as an on-going nuisance, the state was able to sue for the use of lead paint decades earlier.
The state was seeking $2.4 billion in damages.
Chief Justice Frank Williams wrote “Our hearts go out to those children whose lives forever have been changed by the poisonous presence of lead. But, however grave the problem of lead poisoning is in Rhode Island, public nuisance law simply does not provide a remedy for this harm.”
This is only the latest such rejection of the nuisance and market share theories against the industry. However, this is clearly the most important. I have long expressed opposition to such lawsuits, which seem to be examples of legislation through litigation. For prior testimony, click here.