More on Lead Paint, Almost 800 Years Worth

By July 1, 2008Briefly Legal

From the American Tort Reform Association, a news release. ATRA joined the NAM and other business and insurance groups in filing an amicus brief on behalf of the defendants. Excerpt:

“Though it’s troubling that the original lawsuit ever got as far as it did,” observed ATRA president Tiger Joyce, “those of us who advocate for preserving the rule of law and reasonable predictability within our civil courts are very pleased with the high court’s reversal of the trial judge.

“Rhode Island’s former attorney general and the outside counsel he contracted with had shamelessly tried to stretch public nuisance law beyond recognition,” Joyce continued. “Though the trial judge was willing to go along with this perversion of the law, the state’s supreme court would have none of it, and its unambiguous rejection of the state’s case restores some logic to this area of tort law.”

From the private lawfirm hired by the Rhode Island Attorney General on a contingency-fee basis, Motley Rice LLC, a statement, remarkably strident in tone. The calmest excerpt:

“The Rhode Island Supreme Court today issued a ruling that we believe radically departs from long-standing public nuisance law by finding that the companies that originally manufactured and sold the poisonous paint have no responsibility for this public health crisis,” stated Motley Rice Member Jack McConnell who has worked on the litigation since its inception. “Unfortunately the Rhode Island Supreme Court today ended the abatement process that was very close to finally solving the major public health problem and would have protected our children once and for all.”

So they’re sticking with “radically departs from long-standing public nuisance law,” evidence to the contrary. If you go back to the oral arguments before the Rhode Island Supreme Court you’ll see that the state’s lawyers were reducing to arguing the facts, not the law — problematic at the appellate phase. Their contention, “lead paint is bad,” elicited reaction from the court along the lines of, “Yes, agreed, but what about the law?” The attorneys had no good response.

Probably because ….

From Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, and Robin Conrad, Executive Vice President of the National Chamber Litigation Center, a statement:

Public nuisance is an 800- year old legal theory twisted by the plaintiffs’ bar and overreaching state attorneys general.  We commend the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s ruling today for rightly repudiating this flawed legal scheme designed to put more money into the pockets of trial lawyers while doing little to correct any perceived wrongs.  The Court rightly recognized it’s the job of the legislature, not the judiciary, to create new causes of action. Today’s ruling should be a sign to courts across the country that public nuisance cases should not be used as a tool for plaintiffs’ lawyers to extort millions of dollars from companies

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