Finally, for More on the R.I. Ruling, Go Here

By July 1, 2008General

The Law and More blog, the go-to place for coverage of the long and painful history of the lead-paint litigation. Lots of commentary and insider insight from Jane Genova. We especially liked this observation from one of her regular legal sources:

Inside the Beltway Attorney, off the record:

“The Chief Justice’s quote from learned U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo is very telling about the perception of Judge Silverstein’s apparent bent in this protracted case:

“‘The judge … is not to innovate at pleasure.  He is not a knight-errant roaming at will in pursuit of his own ideal of beauty or of goodness.  He is to draw his inspiration from consecrated principles.  He is not to yield to spasmodic sentiment, to vague and unregulated benevolence.  He is to exercise a discretion informed by tradition, methodized by analogy, disciplined by system, and subordinated to the primordial necessity of order in the social life.’

“Now, unburdened with the distraction of this case, Rhode Island can get on with the serious business of reducing its current 651 annual cases of childhood lead poisoning to zero.  That would be the true pursuit of goodness.”

And there’s more at Point of here and here.

UPDATE (4:08 p.m.): A statement from Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center:

Today’s decision by the Rhode Island Supreme Court is a major victory for all business owners. The court rejected the attempt of trial lawyers to dramatically expand tort liability for business owners by imposing a new ‘public nuisance’ theory of liability. In this case, trial lawyers were trying to hold paint manufacturers liable for lead paint exposure despite the fact that at the time the lead paint was being made and sold, it was a lawful product. This was a clear attempt by trial lawyers to attack manufacturers for unfortunate consequences far beyond the manufacturers’ control. The Rhode Island Supreme Court rightfully rejected this reasoning and reaffirmed that in order to hold a business liable, there must be at minimum a causal connection between actions taken by a business defendant and the harm caused to the claimants.

UPDATE (5:35 p.m.): Ted Frank has more commentary and links at, here. He remarks:  “Attorney General Patrick Lynch is unhappy about the legal setback to his campaign contributors constituents.” Also worth noting: “Existing abatement efforts already required of landlords under Rhode Island law mean that lead paint exposure is at an all-time low in the state–evidence that was excluded at trial.”

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