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No punitives in R.I. lead paint case

But the "nuisance" theory by itself, if upheld, could cost the defendant companies hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, per AP. Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog says last week's jury verdict may prove to be "one of the worst and most destructive jury verdicts of the decade". During its long deadlocked period, the jury had reportedly been leaning 4-2 in favor of the defense (Jane Genova). The WSJ's Monday editorial is subscriber-only, but here are a few snippets:

"The fact that the conduct that caused the nuisance is lawful does not preclude liability," Judge Silverstein said....

[Motley Rice] marketed its lead-paint strategy to the state government, which agreed to pay the trial lawyers 16 2/3% of whatever settlement is reached....

There is also the not-so-little matter of public policy, and who has the authority to make decisions about the 300,000 or so buildings in Rhode Island that contain lead paint. Judge Silverstein's abatement orders are likely to be in direct conflict with the guidelines set down by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Health Department....

In the wake of the Rhode Island verdict, the Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts and Connecticut attorneys general are considering copycat lawsuits. Similar cases in New Jersey and Wisconsin [on behalf of cities, not states] are already moving toward trial.

More coverage: Feb. 17, OL Feb. 23, etc.

And more: Jane Genova interviews the jury foreman who says he and his colleagues were swayed on the nuisance issue by the judge's instructions, as well as by the tender age of the youngsters exposed to old paint deposits. Of the expert witnesses called by the plaintiffs' side, the medical experts, who "seemed to be concerned with the children's welfare", made a better impression than the two historians, Professors Markowitz and Rosner, who "seemed to have a vendetta against the paint companies".



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.