Lead Paint Cinch

By July 2, 2008Briefly Legal

That’s the headline on today’s Wall Street Journal editorial marking the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s ruling in the lead paint litigation as a good day for justice.

Below we note the similarity of denunciations coming from R.I. Patrick Lynch and the attorneys as Motley Rice. Shared interests, shared rhetoric…

The lead paint as “nuisance” theory was ginned up by Motley Rice, the South Carolina firm famous for its tobacco shakedowns. The law firm found a partner in then-Rhode Island Attorney General (and now U.S. Democratic Senator) Sheldon Whitehouse, who brought the first lead nuisance suit in the country. The theory was picked up by current AG Patrick Lynch, who has worked hand-in-wallet with Motley Rice and others, dishing them a contingency contract worth 16.67% of any settlement.

Yesterday’s decision should deny them that jackpot injustice. But the cost of fighting these suits over nearly a decade has still been steep for the three paint company defendants. Sherwin-Williams Co. saw its stock plummet after the 2006 verdict, erasing about $1.8 billion in market cap, a third of its value at the time. The British “loser pays” rule is designed to deter precisely this kind of legal abuse by making the loser pay for bringing frivolous cases.

The Journal’s ending paragraph is as clear a statement we’ve seen characterizing the developments in Rhode Island:

Yesterday’s ruling is good news for paint makers and consumers, and even better news as a rebuke to the plaintiffs bar and its political patrons. Industries that make lawful products should not be held hostage to bogus legal theories whose only purpose is looting honest companies.

Leave a Reply