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Rhode Island jury finds lead paint manufacturers liable for public nuisance

[JURIST] A Rhode Island jury Wednesday found three former lead paint manufacturers [JURIST report] responsible for creating a public nuisance that had contaminated thousands of homes and continues to poison children. The jury found Sherwin Williams, NL Industries Inc. [corporate websites], and Millennium Holdings all accountable, but cleared a fourth company, Atlantic Richfield [corporate website]. The jury finding, said to be the first in the country against lead paint manufacturers on grounds of public nuisance, opens the way for companies who once made lead paint and pigment to be held responsible for millions of dollars in cleanup and mitigation costs. The state did not place a dollar amount on the lawsuit, and Judge Mike Silverstein is expected to make a decision on the amount of money owed by the three companies.

The sale of lead paint was banned in 1978 after studies concluded that the paint caused serious health problems with children, but the paint remains in many older homes in Rhode Island and other states. In 1999, Rhode Island became the first state to sue the paint industry [backgrounder], but the trial ended in 2002 with a hung jury. The jury began deliberation in the latest case on February 13 after three months of trial. In a press release after the jury verdict Wednesday Sherwin-Williams insisted that "the facts and the law are on our side. The Court still has to rule on various remaining issues before the next steps in the legal process can be determined." Reuters has more.

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