Results matching “"rhode island" paint”

Around the web, February 4 - PointOfLaw Forum

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.)

From the manufacturers' news release:

"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. 

And, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, any reason to keep Ohio's public nuisance suit going? Distance yourself from Marc Dann!

More...

Having written this week (here, here, here, here and here) on the various public policy aspects of the tobacco master settlement agreement 10 years after its enactment, we now get to perhaps the most important and lasting consequences of the MSA: the astounding increase in money and political power the agreement brought to the nation's trial lawyers, as well as the expansion of states' use of private contingency lawyers to carry out cash-seeking litigation. Any review of the decade following the MSA that omits these profound implications for the U.S. legal and political system is incomplete, woefully incomplete.

So that's the way we'd describe NPR's series, "The Tobacco Settlement, 10 Years Later," the most prominent media take on the MSA's anniversary. Each individual story was OK within its limited scope, but the reporters and producers all but skipped the trial lawyer angle, producing woefully incomplete journalism. A non-broadcast sidebar profiled some of the actors, "Update: Key Players In The Tobacco Settlement." There's a paragraph on Mississippi's former attorney general, Mike Moore, who initiated the state lawsuit against the tobacco companies because, "His friend, attorney Mike Lewis, came to him with the idea." And there's a paragraph on Dickie Scruggs:

Mississippi trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs first became well-known taking on the asbestos industry on behalf of sick shipyard workers. He was then hired to sue Big Tobacco, representing Mississippi in the protracted tobacco litigation in the 1990s and helping to broker a deal. He said the settlement earned his firm close to $1 billion. He continued as a class action warrior until getting into a dispute over legal fees in the settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance cases. In 2007, he was indicted on charges of attempting to bribe a judge. He pleaded guilty and is serving five years at a federal prison in eastern Kentucky.

And that's it on the subject of trial lawyers.

High on the list of legal-reform elections - PointOfLaw Forum

Alabama -- In the expensive, expensive, very expensive Supreme Court race, Republican Greg Shaw has defeated Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur by about a percentage point. From the AP: "The Shaw campaign claimed victory with a lead of more than 14,000 votes, while Paseur eyed a possible recount." Very much a business versus trial lawyers face-off.

West Virginia -- Incumbent Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw appears to have won a slim victory over Charleston attorney and former legislator Dan Greear. McGraw has contributed to West Virginia's terrible, anti-business legal climate -- see this Manhattan Institute "Trial Lawyers, Inc." update -- hiring highly compensated private lawyers to manage the state's lawsuits and then divvying up the proceeds of awards to his political allies. An expensive race featuring negative ads, but in that, hardly the exception. (More.)

Ohio -- Democratic state Treasurer Richard Cordray easily won a three-way contest for Ohio attorney general yesterday, taking 57 percent of the vote over Mike Crites, a former federal prosecutor. Cordray fills the remaining two-years of the term of Democrat Marc Dann, who had resigned in disgrace amid a sex and administrative nightmare scandal. From The Columbus Dispatch: "Cordray said his top priority will be fighting mortgage fraud. He will also work to strengthen enforcement of consumer-protection laws."

Ohio remains the only state left with a public nuisance suit against lead paint manufacturers, one filed by Dann and kept alive by the interim AG. The city of Columbus previously dropped its suit after the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling in July. Perhaps Cordray's clear-cut victory gives him the political maneuvering room to drop the pointless, expensive and anti-economic-growth litigation. Respectfully suggested line of argument: "I intend to devote my energies to our most pressing problems, where we can do the most good."

UPDATE: We should note that in the case of West Virginia, Democratic Governor Joe Manchin was re-elected with a big margin. Manchin is a pro-growth governor who has been critical of the state's degraded legal climate, so his election offers continued hope for reform.

UPDATE, Texas: From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, "If plaintiffs lawyers in Houston are a little groggy this morning from too much partying, please forgive them. They've got much to cheer about: Last night, Houston trial courts underwent a massive face lift, as 22 Democratic judges swept into office." Big picture: "Democrats won 22 of the 26 district-court races in Harris County (Houston). In Dallas County, which also used to be a GOP bastion before a partisan shift in 2006, Democrats won all six district-court races."


In New Hampshire, Merrimack Superior Court Judge Philip Mangones has kept alive the state's suit against oil companies that produced the gas additive MTBE, but he has followed the Rhode Island Supreme Court in rejecting the state's public nuisance claim.

From the Concord Monitor, "State right to sue oil companies jointly":

In the state's biggest-ever environmental case, the attorney general's office is suing producers of MTBE and gasoline containing the additive, saying they should foot the bill for cleaning the thousands of wells and drinking water supplies across the state into which the chemical has seeped, in some cases making the water undrinkable.

The case names 26 defendants - companies such as Exxon Mobil, Irving, Citgo, BP and Hess - some of whom filed motions to dismiss four of the seven counts against them. Mangones denied their requests on three counts but dismissed one about public nuisance.

Citing a Rhode Island lead paint case, Mangones said public nuisance does not apply because the manufacturers were not in control of the product at the time it allegedly caused harm.

The story notes that D.C. attorney Rick Wallace, representing Shell and Chevron, is heartened by the dismissal because, "The state relied principally on this claim for its contention that it can demand payment for what it calls 'the cumulative effect' of MTBE 'statewide' without having to prove that it incurred damages from particular causes at specific sites." The other claims will require proof that a company contributed to a specific incident of contamination.

The original suit was filed in 2003 by Attorney General Peter Heed with the support of Gov. Craig Benson (both Republicans), and current AG Kelly Ayotte announced in January she would continue the suit. (Ayotte succeeded Heed after he resigned in 2004 over allegations of improper touching.)

Links and MTBE-related history below ...

Around the web, September 18 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Some NYC plaintiffs' lawyers aghast after Judge Jack Weinstein slashes ferry-crash contingency fee from $6 million to $3.6 million, noting undoubted liability in case and client's inability to dicker [NYLJ] For a sampling of Lester Brickman's work urging judges to review reasonableness of contingency fees charged to unsophisticated clients, start here, here, here, and, for some empirical background, here and here;
  • Tulane Law School dean apologizes over law review article correlating Louisiana Supreme Court decisions to campaign donations (but was it wrong?) [Times-Picayune]
  • Latest in Adam Liptak's "American Exceptionalism" series looks at increasing disinclination of foreign courts to cite/follow our Supreme Court, and debate over citation of foreign law in ours [NYTimes, Paulsen @ Balkinization] A different view: Joshua Friedman, CJR.
  • Strange bedfellows? Class-action lawyers suing AIG, Lehman were pulling for the firms' survival so the money would be there [AmLaw Daily]
  • As Rhode Islanders wave goodbye, Motley Rice lead-paint caravan packs up and moves on to other localities [Lisa Rickard, Chamber/Providence Business Journal]
  • More offshore drilling? Well, first you'll have to get past the minefield of lawsuits [WSJ editorial]
  • Questions for U.S. lawyers making Capitol Hill rounds with Ecuadorian "indigenous peoples" clients suing Chevron Texaco [Quin Hillyer, Examiner]

Corporate monitors and double standards - PointOfLaw Columns

By Walter Olson

Last November the Newark Star-Ledger reported on an eyebrow-raising instance of the Justice Department practice of leaning on companies under investigation to appoint "corporate monitors". In particular, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie had "helped the Ashcroft Group—the consulting firm of ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft—obtain a contract worth between $28 million and $52 million to monitor Zimmer Holdings, a medical supply company accused of Medicare fraud." That story quite rightly set off a round of discussion and concern, both because of the dangers of political coziness in the choice of monitor and because the fee numbers seemed high. In July, Democrats on the Hill introduced legislation to impose what it is hoped will amount to an "open, competitive process"—going beyond the Justice Department, which had already adopted its own tightened guidelines for the picking of monitors in implicit acknowledgment that the concerns were genuine.

It's funny how these things work, though. For a full decade now—starting with the great state tobacco-Medicaid litigation, and never really abating since then—debate has raged at the state and local level about the often cozy and uncompetitive process by which governments select outside counsel for the correction of business defendants. In this latter case—exemplified by the gun, lead paint, drug-reimbursement, and many other public-nuisance and mass-tort actions, as well as a wide range of securities class action matters—the lawyers are hired to sue the businesses, as distinct from monitoring them afterward, and they are compensated through contingency fees, which sometimes sets them up for lower fees than Ashcroft & Co., but often for fees that are very much higher.

You may have noticed that many of the folks who have led the charge on the Christie-Zimmer matter display virtually no interest in this longstanding debate about state and local retention of outside counsel. The Times, for example, has gleefully seized on the Christie/Zimmer affair as a stick to beat the Bush Justice Department, invoking "the kindness of cronies", the use of monitoring positions "to throw patronage to friends and political allies", the danger that prosecutorial judgment will be colored by the chance to generate "a rich payday for a friend", and so forth. Yet the Times never shows the slightest editorial interest in the contingency-fee contracts that governors, mayors, treasurers, comptrollers, and attorneys general keep arranging for close chums and leading campaign contributors, whether it be lead-paint contracts in Rhode Island, Oxycontin contracts in West Virginia, securities and drug-reimbursement suits in many states, insurance cases on the Gulf Coast, or tobacco and gun litigation contracts nationwide including its own back yard of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Congress never did show much interest in investigating those contracting abuses either, and it shows essentially none now. So although groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have pressed for transparency in the awarding of such contracts, they face a mostly uphill and unpublicized fight.

Of course, one obvious difference between the two types of potential corruption is that there is not much partisan mileage to be had by going after the contingency-fee kind, because although plenty of Republican officials around the country are in on the game, even more Democrats are. But that can't be relevant. Can it?

From Washington Legal Foundation by defense-side lawyers Thomas R. Bender, Richard O. Faulk, John S. Gray:

On July 1, 2008, the Supreme Court of the nation's smallest state, Rhode Island, gave a loud and mighty roar as it rejected the use of public nuisance law as a means to sue manufacturers of lawful products. In so ruling, the Court conforms to the traditional role of judges presiding over common law controversies, and joined a growing list of other state supreme courts that have refused to enlarge the boundaries of this ancient tort.

Among fatal objections to the plaintiffs' theory: "Defendants Must Control the Public Nuisance at the Time of the Injury" and "Harm Occurring in a Private Homes is not a 'Public Right' that Triggers Public Nuisance Liability". Full 18-page paper here (PDF).

That "Right Thing to Do" - Natural Law in Scary Times - PointOfLaw Forum

The plaintiff bar has made a good read on the confusion and fear - ethical, emotional and legal - of these volatile times.

In the court of law and of public opinion, it is arguing increasingly about the "right thing to do." That, of course, relies on natural-law theory [lex naturalis] or the fundamentalist belief that holds that there exists a law whose content and authority are established by nature, therefore valid everywhere. Throughout Rhode Island's lead paint public nuisance litigation and afterwards in taking on the state's Supreme Court decision in the media, Motley Rice spoke in terms of some universal legal and ethical code.

Natural law's power, points out Australian law professor David B. Goldman in "Globalisation and the Western Legal Tradition," comes from its deep roots in legal thought, dating back to ancient times. That has been reinforced both pragmatically and in the history of ideas by religious, literary, and political movements. Think the American Revolution which embodies belief in natural law in the "Declaration of Independence."

What the defense bar seems to be doing to neutralize this power includes arguments based on points of law, changing times, community mores, CSI-type evidence, mitigating circumstances, and cause/effect vs. mere correlation. The success of tort reform efforts has also tilted the legal system towards relativism instead of absolutist dictates.

Odd but Perfect Fit: Working-class values/CSI Effect - PointOfLaw Forum

Working-class values and the CSI Effect should be mutually exclusive in legal persuasion, right? Wrong, I found out in interviewing the Rhode Island lead paint public nuisance jurors. They straddled both spheres just fine.

Those working-class values, which have become chic as we endure two recessions in less than a decade, celebrate compassion, community, resilience, and the work ethic. In "Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams," journalist Alfred Lubrano presents fresh prespectives on the world most of us baby boomers ran from.

The so-called CSI Effect, derived from popular crime TV shows, creates the expectation for and trust of scientific evidence. The RI lead jurors, primarily blue-collar, used both mindsets to come to a verdict. The hazards the children faced from lead paint were uppermost in their motivation to make the right decision. And they persisted through four months of a trial and eight days of deliberation to do just that, despite sickness and an abnormal lifestyle.

Simultaneously, they took copious notes - the court was one of the few which allowed that - to keep the so-called facts straight. They became deadlocked twice because of the lack of evidence. They got to a verdict only by pasting the judge's instructructions, which didn't require evidence, to the wall and going through them line-by-line. Subsequently the RI Supreme Court overturned the jury's verdict because of this lack of evidence.

My hunch is that these two very different modes of persuasion mesh in court because law is a unique institution. It's both rule-bound and subject to the community mores. Regarding the latter, the blue-collar ethos, just like in the counterculture 1970s, has become fashionable. That could change with an economic boom, which could revamp current legal rhetoric, especially for the plaintiff bar.

New guestblogger: Jane Genova of Law and More - PointOfLaw Forum

We're happy to announce that Jane Genova, whose blog Law and More we've linked innumerable times at Point of Law, will be guestblogging with us this week. Genova began blogging as an extension of her work in corporate speechwriting, ghostwriting and marketing, but the work soon took on a life of its own, especially after she began to concentrate on the high-stakes but under-reported field of lead paint litigation, which she's covered with extraordinary energy and detail at Law and More. She pioneered the in-person liveblogging of trials before that idea caught on elsewhere, notably in the landmark Rhode Island lead paint case, and has branched out into other law and business topics with a lively mix of content that includes insider interviews, tips on management and branding strategy, speculation on the stories behind the news, and personal asides.

Around the web, August 19 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Judge Ward has attracted so many patent plaintiffs to his E.D. Tex. courtroom that its "rocket docket" is slowing down [Texas Lawyer]
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell picks Houston chum Kenneth Bailey of Bailey Perrin Bailey to go after Johnson & Johnson in high stakes Risperdal marketing suit [Legal NewsLine, more]
  • Ted Frank on Mirapex compulsive-gambling suit [Examiner, Overlawyered]
  • Motley Rice is griping (and griping and griping) about being done out of its big lead paint payday by the Rhode Island Supreme Court [Genova]
  • Humane Society lacks standing to challenge New York economic development grant to foie gras maker [NYLJ]
  • Unwise judicial selection methods do not equal unconstitutional: a look back at NY's Lopez-Torres case [Haden/Anderson, Fed. Soc.'s Engage; related, Boog/Judicial Reports]

Not sure why this attorney general's public nuisance lawsuit drew such dramatically less attention than Rhode Island's suit against the paint manufacturers, but in any case ...

Trial concluded this week in North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Administration for creating a public nuisance through its coal-fired power plants in other states. Cooper brought suit in federal court in January 2006 (news release, complaint and FAQ) after failing to win his arguments before the EPA, trying to hold the TVA to the standards of the state's Clean Smokestacks Act of 2002. The TVA maintains that it is reducing emissions, installing scrubbers, etc. U.S. District Judge Lacy Thornburg, who heard the suit, is expected to issue a ruling after September 15.

Both the Tennessean and Asheville Citizen-Times did a good job covering daily trial developments. Here are the most recent reports:

Transparency in selecting outside counsel? Great idea! - PointOfLaw Forum

Last November the Newark Star-Ledger reported on an eyebrow-raising instance of the Justice Department practice of leaning on companies under investigation to appoint "corporate monitors". In particular, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie had "helped the Ashcroft Group -- the consulting firm of ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- obtain a contract worth between $28 million and $52 million to monitor Zimmer Holdings, a medical supply company accused of Medicare fraud." That story quite rightly set off a round of discussion and concern, both because of the dangers of political coziness in the choice of monitor and because the fee numbers seemed high. Last week, Democrats on the Hill introduced legislation to impose what it is hoped will amount to an "open, competitive process" -- going beyond the Justice Department, which had already adopted its own tightened guidelines for the picking of monitors in implicit acknowledgment that the concerns were genuine.

It's funny how these things work, though. For a full decade now -- starting with the great state tobacco-Medicaid litigation, and never really abating since then -- debate has raged at the state and local level about the often cozy and uncompetitive process by which governments select outside counsel for the correction of business defendants. In this latter case -- exemplified by the gun, lead paint, drug-reimbursement, and many other public-nuisance and mass-tort actions, as well as a wide range of securities class action matters -- the lawyers are hired to sue the businesses, as distinct from monitoring them afterward, and they are compensated through contingency fees, which sometimes sets them up for lower fees than Ashcroft & Co., but often for fees that are very much higher.

You may have noticed that many of the folks who have led the charge on the Christie-Zimmer matter display virtually no interest in this longstanding debate about state and local retention of outside counsel. The Times, for example, has gleefully seized on the Christie/Zimmer affair as a stick to beat the Bush Justice Department, invoking "the kindness of cronies", the use of monitoring positions "to throw patronage to friends and political allies", the danger that prosecutorial judgment will be colored by the chance to generate "a rich payday for a friend", and so forth. Yet the Times never shows the slightest editorial interest in the contingency-fee contracts that governors, mayors, treasurers, comptrollers, and attorneys general keep arranging for close chums and leading campaign contributors, whether it be lead-paint contracts in Rhode Island, Oxycontin contracts in West Virginia, securities and drug-reimbursement suits in many states, insurance cases on the Gulf Coast, or tobacco and gun litigation contracts nationwide including its own back yard of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Congress never did show much interest in investigating those contracting abuses either, and it shows essentially none now. So although groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have pressed for transparency in the awarding of such contracts, they face a mostly uphill and unpublicized fight.

Of course, one obvious difference between the two types of potential corruption is that there is not much partisan mileage to be had by going after the contingency-fee kind, because although plenty of Republican officials around the country are in on the game, even more Democrats are. But that can't be relevant. Can it?

Sebok on Rhode Island lead paint decision - PointOfLaw Forum

Finishing up his three-part series for FindLaw, in which he calls the Rhode Island court's dismissal of the lead paint case "the right answer for the right reasons", the Cardozo lawprof singles out perhaps the most important point that distinguishes legitimate old from spurious new applications of public nuisance law: "the Court held that the law of public nuisance requires not only that the defendant be a substantial cause of the interference, but that the defendant still be in control of the instrumentality that caused the interference at the time when the suit is brought." (via Scheuerman, TortsProf).

LeadPaintLawFirm.com - PointOfLaw Forum

No one bid on that domain name at its eBay auction (minimum bid, $999; ending date July 7), despite the seller's description of it as "great, keyword heavy for a law firm dealing in lead paint poisoning law suits" and the added attraction of free shipping (in case you were wondering how much it cost to ship a domain name). A reflection of a post-Rhode Island lull in the business, perhaps?

The paint manufacturers hit by the lead-paint lawsuits have just issued a news release about the city of Columbus dropping its suit. Excerpt:

COLUMBUS, OHIO - The City of Columbus has voluntarily dismissed with prejudice its public nuisance lawsuit filed in December 2006 against former manufacturers of lead pigment. With Tuesday's filing in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, all ten public nuisances suits filed by Ohio cities since 2006 have been either voluntarily dismissed or rejected by courts.

"The City of Columbus followed settled law by asking the court to dismiss its lawsuit," said Charles H. Moellenberg, Jr., an attorney for The Sherwin-Williams Company, speaking on behalf of defendants Sherwin-Williams and Millennium Holdings, LLC. "The lawsuit was legally and factually wrong in suing companies that lawfully made products that the city, painters and consumers demanded historically as the best on the market."

The City's action follows a series of significant decisions over the last two years, all of which have rejected public nuisance lawsuits against former manufacturers. On July 1, the Rhode Island Supreme Court unanimously rejected a public nuisance lawsuit filed nine years earlier, saying that the claim "should have been dismissed at the outset." Earlier, state Supreme Courts in Missouri and New Jersey, along with a jury in Wisconsin, also rejected plaintiffs' claims in public nuisance cases. As a result, public nuisance lawsuits against former manufacturers have been rejected by all courts in which the cases are resolved.

We'll be watching for news from the Ohio Attorney General's office, which last week expressed its intention to continue the state's lawsuit. Seems an untenable position.

Earlier post on Columbus' litigation here.

From Stuart Taylor, National Journal, Feb. 19, 2003, "Perverting the Legal System: The Lead-Paint Rip-Off."

[Attorney General Sheldon] Whitehouse signed an unusual "retainer agreement" with Ness Motley and another firm. It not only guaranteed the lawyers a contingent fee of 16.67 percent of any money recovered, plus all litigation expenses; it also gave them considerable control over whom to sue, what to claim, whether to settle, and on what terms. In other words, Whitehouse delegated a share of the state's sovereign power to a law firm whose best-known partner, Ronald L. Motley, had vowed that he would bring the paint industry to its knees within three years or give up his 156-foot yacht. Never mind the conflict between the interests of the lawyers in huge fees and the interests of Rhode Island's people, who might, for example, be misled and alarmed by the lawyers for their state, who claim that old lead paint in school buildings is a big threat to the students.

With all the commentary over the R.I. Supreme Court's rejection of the state's public-nuisance lawsuit against the paint industry, there was comparatively little analysis of the ruling's section on the propriety/legality of contingency fee arrangements. LegalNewsline had a good examination of the issue, following up a story from May about Motley Rice's fee. Otherwise...eh. Probably because the court upheld the contingency fee, albeit with strong words of admonition.

The section of the opinion on the continency fee arrangement, Track V, starts on page 60. The gist is on page 71.

The Propriety of Contingent Fee Arrangements
Although we are keenly aware of the gravity of the issue and of the fact that thoughtful and potent policy-based arguments have been made on both sides of the issue, in the end we have concluded that, in principle, there is nothing unconstitutional or illegal or inappropriate in a contractual relationship whereby the Attorney General hires outside attorneys on a contingent fee basis to assist in the litigation of certain non-criminal matters. Indeed, it is our view that the ability of the Attorney General to enter into such contractual relationships may well, in some circumstances, lead to results that will be beneficial to society--results which otherwise might not have been attainable. However, due to the special duty of attorneys general to "seek justice" and their wide discretion with respect to same, such contractual relationships must be accompanied by exacting limitations. In short, it is our view that the Attorney General is not precluded from engaging private counsel pursuant to a contingent fee agreement in order to assist in certain civil litigation, so long as the Office of Attorney General retains absolute and total control over all critical decision-making in any case in which such agreements have been entered into.

Bolded and underlined! And restated, more or less, several times in the opinon.

A good sentiment, but hard to enforce in the real world, we think.

As for Mr. Motley's yacht, the Themis was still on Power & Motoryacht's list of America's 100 Largest Yachts in 2007. But only #99. He's not keeping up.

Rhode Island's dominant paper, the Providence Journal, summarizes the lead-paint litigation with a Sunday feature on the Liz Colon, the mother of a child who suffered from lead poisoning. Colon became the face of the litigation against the paint manufacturers, joining the activist group, The Childhood Lead Action Project, for which she now works.

From "Court reversal on lead poisoning stuns a longtime advocate for lead poisoning victims":

Colon says she can understand the Supreme Court's rationale for reversing the state's case.

She still has trouble accepting why she had to pay so much financially and emotionally after her son got lead poisoning. Governments at every level are paying. Taxpayers are paying.

And the companies walk away "scot free."

The newspaper invested great time and effort in coverage of the lead paint issue as a public health crisis, in 2001 publishing a special, multipart report, "Poisoned." Among the installments: "Babies as lead detectors," and "Unsafe at home." And the wrap-up, "Enact new laws, enforce the old," with the teaser, "To shake Rhode Island out of its complacency and to stop the lead poisoning of our children, Atty. Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse is going after unresponsive landlords. He has also filed a precedent-setting lawsuit against the companies that manufactured paint containing lead. Some advocates are pushing for additional measures to curb lead poisoning."

That's the kind of coverage that helps activist attorneys general get up in the morning.

Speaking of AAGs, we missed the fact that Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch was elected last month to be president of the National Association of Attorneys General. Why? For the children:

"I am enlisting the assistance of my colleagues and good corporate citizens, and marshalling the resources of NAAG and other organizations, to increase protections, decrease risks, and encourage a more just and secure world for our children," Attorney General Lynch said.

A Sensible Reaction from Columbus, Ohio - PointOfLaw Forum

From the Columbus Dispatch:

"Most everybody pinned their hopes on how Rhode Island moved," said Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. "I think it's fair to say, with Rhode Island's decision, we'll have to seriously re-evaluate this case and see if it should continue."

The city estimates that cleaning up 150,000 lead- contaminated homes could cost $1.7 billion.

"Obviously, this ruling in Rhode Island does not bode well for our legal strategy," said Dan Williamson, spokesman for Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

Columbus sued paint manufacturers in December 2006, (mis)using public nuisance law in the process. (Search for the docket for case 06 CV 016480 here.) In March, 2008, U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. dismissed a suit filed by Sherwin-Williams that sought to block the city's litigation. (Columbus Dispatch story), so the city's suit is still alive. But in any case, the water-based writing is on the wall.

The Attorney General's office is not reacting as post-factually as the city attorney's office. The Dispatch quotes Jim Gravelle, an AG spokesman, saying, "This in no way restricts Ohio's right to hold lead paint companies liable for the extreme harm they have caused Ohio citizens under public nuisance or other causes of action."

We note the state's lawsuit was filed in 2007 by the disgraced, since-resigned AG, Marc Dann. His judgment obviously proved lacking in many things; the current, appointive AG could certainly renounce the lawsuit with no political harm, especially since she's not seeking the office in the fall election. And ultimately, it was politics that drove the suit.

P.S. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer editorially called on the state and cities to face reality and give up the suits: "Paint companies should continue helping struggling cities abate this expensive problem, but those are deals to be struck at a negotiating table, not in a courtroom."


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