The state of Rhode Island must reimburse more than $242,000 to three companies that succeeded in overturning a jury verdict that could have forced them to spend billions of dollars cleaning up homes contaminated with lead paint, a state Superior Court judge has ruled.
Rhode Island was the first state to win a lawsuit against the lead paint industry when a jury in February 2006 found Sherwin-Williams Co., Millennium Holdings LLC and NL Industries liable for creating a public nuisance by manufacturing lead pigment used in paint.
But the R.I. Supreme Court later reversed that decision, leading the companies to seek reimbursement for the $242,121.21 in fees they had paid the court-appointed officials.
"The entire foundation for the defendants' liability in this case is based on a jury verdict that has been reversed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court," the judge wrote in his decision Jan. 22, 2009.
“The state made a calculated decision to pursue a claim against the defendants, and voluntarily participate in the judicial system, and thus may not invoke sovereign immunity to shield it from the imposition of costs,” the decision added.
The companies also are trying to recover additional money spent on the lawsuit, such as for depositions and filing fees, but have not said how much they are seeking. A private law firm hired by the state to help try the case has said it spent $1.9 million.
An attorney for Sherwin-Williams said the defendants also intended to submit additional bills, if allowed. “It is common practice for courts to award the prevailing party certain costs related to litigation,” he noted. In a motion still pending before the Superior Court, the companies seek reimbursement for other litigation expenses, but not attorneys’ fees.
Information about the R.I. Superior Court, including recent court orders and decisions, is available from the R.I. Administrative Office of State Courts at www.courts.state.ri.us. Statements by the lead-paint defendants are posted at www.LeadLawsuits.com.
Sources: abc6.com, Associated Press, forbes.com, Providence Business News