Issue Date: February 11, 2008
Industry Asks Court To Overturn Paint Verdict
Industry trade associations are asking the Rhode Island Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that they contend vastly expands the reach of public nuisance lawsuits. In 2006, a Rhode Island jury found that three paint makers created a public nuisance by manufacturing lead-based paint and should reimburse the state for its cleanup costs. A brief filed by seven business groups, including the American Chemistry Council, says personal injury lawyers have sought to apply public nuisance law to product litigation, in this case lead-based paints that were legal until 1978. The goal, the brief contends, is to develop a "super tort" that can overcome well-settled requirements of other areas of tort law, including product liability. "Public nuisance law should not be used to replace traditional product liability law," says Quentin Riegel, the National Association of Manufacturers' vice president for litigation. "Allowing this suit would create unpredictable liability for manufacturers in situations where they have no control over the ultimate use or maintenance of their products."
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