Insurers for Lead Paint Makers Move to Limit Costs in R.I. Cleanup

March 13, 2006

Insurers for three former lead paint manufacturers are seeking to drop or limit insurance policies held by the paint companies, lawyers said.

Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London filed the lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court last month after a Rhode Island jury decided three former lead paint makers — Sherwin Williams, Millennium Holdings and NL Industries — created a public nuisance by selling the now-banned product and should be responsible for cleaning it up.

Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein is scheduled to meet this week with paint company lawyers to discuss an abatement program, which could cost millions of dollars. The companies could try to collect from their insurance policies to fund the cleanup.

In the lawsuit, Lloyd’s officials say evidence from the Rhode Island trial demonstrates the former lead paint makers didn’t disclose the dangers of lead paint when they purchased their policies.

But the Rhode Island jury decided the paint companies hadn’t engaged in any misconduct, said Bonnie Campbell, a spokeswoman for the paint companies and a former Iowa attorney general.

The lawsuit also names 52 other insurance companies as defendants.

Jack McConnell, a private attorney who represented the state, called the lawsuit routine. “The problem here and resolution here is enormous, so I think they’re taking their shot to see what they can get themselves out of,” he said.

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