Billion Dollar Lead Paint Judgment Reversed

The Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned a trial court ruling against paint companies sued by Rhode Island’s attorney general in a huge lead-paint lawsuit.  The companies had been found liable for “public nuisance.”  The trial court’s ruling would have led to paint companies paying well over a billion dollars, perhaps many billions of dollars, to remove lead paint from Rhode Island buildings. 

The three paint companies were collectively held liable “without proof that the three companies produced paint that is now on Rhode Island buildings,” noted the Providence Journal, based on so-called “market share liability.”

Trial lawyers hired by the Rhode Island attorney general were aiming to obtain the most expensive remedy possible, even if it wasn’t the best for the public health (it’s more expensive to remove every drop of lead paint from an old building, but sometimes it’s safer just to maintain the paint than remove it).  That’s because they were hired on a contingency fee, which would have resulted in them receiving untold millions of dollars if the remedy was expensive.  (Those lawyers made political donations to the current and former Rhode Island AGs, which a clean government advocate noted “doesn’t pass the smell test“).

The lawsuit was pushed by Rhode Island’s ethically-challenged AG, Patrick Lynch, who is one of the ten worst attorneys general in America, according to CEI’s rating of his performance.  Lynch’s handling of the lawsuit was self-serving.  Legal Newsline and PointofLaw earlier reported on the paint companies’ challenge to provisions in a suspicious deal with Lynch that another company took to escape his lawsuit.  In exchange from being removed from the suit, that company agreed to pay $1 million to Attorney General Lynch’s alma mater, and $2.5 million to a hospital that the trial lawyers hired by Lynch had previously pledged to pay out of their own pocket. The company’s lawyer also made political donations to Lynch.