Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Michael A. Silverstein ruled Thursday that the state must reimburse three paint manufacturers who were charged for costs of developing a lead-paint mitigation plan -- specifically, the costs of "co-examiners" -- before the state Supreme Court had completed consideration (and ultimate vindication) of their appeal. (The judge's decision is here.)
"The Court got it right," said Charles H. Moellenberg, Jr., an attorney for The Sherwin-Williams Company. "These companies should not bear the costs of litigation that the Supreme Court said should have been dismissed at the outset ten years ago. This case demonstrates that state and local governments solicited by trial lawyers to file public nuisance lawsuits should recognize that these cases are not cost-free."
In July 2008, in a long-awaited ruling, the Rhode Island Supreme Court rejected the Attorney General's public nuisance lawsuit filed nine years earlier against former manufacturers of lead pigment used in residential paint, saying the case should have been dismissed at the beginning. After the jury verdict, the state filed a motion seeking costs of more than $1 million. Following the Supreme Court decision reversing the jury verdict, defendants Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries, Inc., and Millennium Holdings LLC, filed a motion seeking reimbursement of $242,121.21 in costs they paid to court-appointed co-examiners whose work began before the Supreme Court reversal.
In its ruling today, the Superior Court said: "With regard to the actions taken by both parties here, as a matter of law and fairness, the Court finds little merit in the State's suggestion that the Defendants should bear the burden of paying the Co-Examiner expenses." The decision added: "The State made a calculated decision to pursue a claim against the Defendants and voluntarily participate in the judicial system, and thus may not invoke sovereign immunity to shield it from the imposition of costs."
Precisely! The companies have more claims for compensation to come.
- Providence Journal, "Companies sued in Rhode Island lead-paint case owed lawsuit expenses"
- Associated Press, "RI judge: Lead paint companies owed restitution"
- Jane Genova, Law and More blog, "RI Lead Paint: Defendants to be reimbursed for Co-Examiners Costs/Expenses"
- Legal Newsline, "Rhode Island, or outside counsel, ordered to reimburse companies in failed lead paint suit"