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Former Paint Manufacturers File Appeal

February 01, 2008
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According to the Associated Press, three former manufacturers of lead paint asked Rhode Island''s highest court recently to overturn a jury verdict that could force them to pay billions of dollars to clean up contaminated older properties around the state.

The companies, in papers filed with the state Supreme Court, said the judge excluded relevant evidence from the trial and improperly allowed prejudicial testimony. They said the jury ruled against them without any evidence that their products were even in the state.

In a landmark lawsuit brought by the state, a jury found Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries and Millennium Holdings liable two years ago for creating a public nuisance.

The state wants the companies to pay an estimated $2.4 billion to remove lead paint contamination from roughly 240,000 homes believed to still contain the toxic substance. A judge has named two public health experts to review the state''s proposal.

Rhode Island can respond to the companies'' appeal, and the Supreme Court will hear arguments on May 15. A decision is expected this summer.

The companies said the state was allowed to claim a major public health problem existed without identifying any individual homes it believed contained lead paint. They also claimed that Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein erred by barring evidence on individual properties that contain lead paint, which was banned from U.S. homes in 1978.

They said he should have let the jury consider whether property owners should be held responsible for failing to maintain their buildings, as required by law, and putting their tenants at risk.

The state argued that the presence of lead paint in homes and buildings in Rhode Island created a public nuisance that continued to poison children while burdening homeowners and taxpayers forced to deal with the problem.
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