A Superior Court judge in Rhode Island paved the way for a landmark lawsuit earlier this week when he gave state Attorney Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) permission to sue manufacturers of lead-based paint. The paint industry had attempted to derail the trial by calling for every one of an estimated 300,000 owners of lead-painted homes to be codefendants. In a triumph that was hailed by anti-lead activists around the country, the judge disagreed, and Whitehouse is expected to go to court within six months. Paint companies maintain that they will win the case by showing that childhood lead poisoning is caused not by paint itself but by poor maintenance. Whitehouse responds that if the companies knew that deteriorating pain was a problem, consumers should have been warned. Rhode Island was the first state to sue paint companies for their role in lead poisoning, which causes neurological problems and learning disorders in children.

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