R.I. court reverses ruling, says paint companies not responsible for lead cleanup
Three paint companies should not have to clean up lead contamination in Rhode Island homes, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The decision reverses a landmark 2006 ruling in which the state was victorious in alleging that Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc., and Millennium Holdings LLC created a public nuisance by manufacturing and selling lead-based paint, despite knowing it was unsafe. Lead paint was banned in the U.S. in 1978, but some 240,000 homes in Rhode Island still contain it. The court decided 4-0 that the companies should not be on the hook to spend an estimated $2.4 billion for cleanup, since they could not control how the paint was used. “However grave the problem of lead poisoning is in Rhode Island, public nuisance law simply does not provide a remedy for this harm,” said the court opinion. The paint industry has been victorious in similar cases in at least four other states; similar lawsuits are pending in Ohio and California.