R.I. AG Lynch Defends DuPont Lead Paint Settlement

August 11, 2006

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch is defending a multimillion deal struck with DuPont Co. last year that dropped the company from the state’s lawsuit against former lead paint manufacturers.

DuPont agreed to pay $12 million in exchange for being dismissed from the case in an arrangement with the state that has come under increased scrutiny. The Associated Press has reported that Lynch accepted a campaign contribution from DuPont’s chief negotiator at the time the deal was being discussed, and that one of the agencies to share in the $12 million had extensive ties to DuPont. Lynch claims he did nothing wrong.

As part of the deal, the company said it would give $2.5 million to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, which appears to be fulfilling in part an earlier $3 million pledge made to the hospital from Motley Rice, the private law firm hired to try the case, The Providence Journal reported Wednesday.

Lynch said he knew Motley Rice “had committed to raising money” for the hospital, but he said he did not know how much the law firm had pledged.

“In the end, it didn’t matter,” Lynch told the Journal. “The question for me was, ‘Can I resolve this issue?”

Jack McConnell, Motley Rice’s lead lawyer in the lead paint case, said he expected that the $2.5 million payment would be credited to the law firm’s pledge. The firm has agreed to waive its legal fees connected to the agreement.

“I don’t see why it shouldn’t,” McConnell said. “And I don’t see anything nefarious or wrong with that. I’m proud that the money didn’t go into our pocket and I’m proud that it went to a charity. The money is being directed to a worthy cause.”

McConnell said he suggested to Lynch that the $2.5 million be directed to the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham & Women’s. Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer, and the firm has represented patients against asbestos manufacturers.

He also said the amount being donated to the hospital was on top of the roughly $10 million that DuPont had agreed to pay to deal with lead paint problems.

On Tuesday, Bill Harsch, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, questioned why the money was being sent to an out-of-state hospital for a program unrelated to lead poisoning.

A jury in February found three other defendants liable for creating a public nuisance with their products, and the state says the process of cleaning up lead paint contamination could cost billions of dollars.

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