R.I. Suit Against Lead Paint Manufacturers Delayed

March 22, 2005

Rhode Island’s landmark lawsuit against the lead paint industry has been postponed until Sept. 7, to give former lead company attorneys more time to depose parents or guardians of lead-poisoned children.

The case was scheduled to begin on April 4. Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein approved the delay. The judge also delayed the trial’s beginning to April from January, acceding to the state’s request for more time to deal with the trial’s new format.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch said the state was ready to go. He called the industry’s time extension “just another delaying tactic while kids get sick.”

A spokesman for the paint companies had no comment.

The state sued the industry in 2002, claiming former paint manufacturers had created a public nuisance that continues to exist. The case ended with a hung jury.

Lead paint was banned in 1978, but is still found in older housing, which makes up a high percentage of the state’s housing stock. Children are poisoned by ingesting flaking or chipped paint. Exposure can cause mental and behavioral problems.

Meanwhile, paint companies have filed a motion objecting to the state’s use of private law firms to help argue its position. The judge is expected to decide on that motion before any trial would begin.

The defendants are Atlantic Richfield Co., Millennium Holdings LLC, NL Industries Inc., Sherwin Williams Co., Dupont, American Cyanamid Co. and ConAgra Inc.

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