R.I. jury finds paint companies liable for billions in lead cleanup

A six-person jury in Rhode Island made history yesterday when it found Sherwin Williams Co., Millennium Holdings, and NL Industries liable for lead paint contamination in hundreds of thousands of homes — and on the hook for potentially billions of dollars to clean it up. It’s the first-ever decision against paint companies in such a case, and may pave the way for similar rulings in lawsuits being brought by cities and counties in several other states. Paint makers have claimed for years that they aren’t responsible for abating contamination from lead-based paints, which were outlawed in the U.S. in 1978 after studies showed that exposure to flakes and dust from the paint could cause brain damage in children. It’s estimated that as much as a quarter of the nation’s housing stock has contained lead paint, and that millions of children have been poisoned.