The first trial in the state's lawsuit against eight defendants ended in a mistrial last fall when the jury was unable to reach a verdict following seven weeks of testimony. The state alleges that the companies created a public nuisance when they sold lead-based paints decades ago. The companies named as defendants insist such old paint is only a hazard if not properly maintained. The state's lawsuit was filed in 1999.
The case has been watched closely by other state and local governments that have also filed suits against former producers of lead paint and pigments.
Bonnie Campbell, an adviser to the defendant companies, issued a statement after the new trial date was set, saying other states are taking steps to deal with hazards from old lead-based paint by "moving aggressively against landlords who fail to maintain their properties." She said such actions are based on the realization that proper maintenance of existing paint is the key to preventing such hazards.
"But in Rhode Island, the litigation is diverting energy from that task," Campbell said. "The attorney general has not initiated any enforcement actions against landlords whose properties have harmed Rhode Island children since taking office. This lawsuit, filed in 1999, has not helped a single child. Nor has it done anything to make sure that landlords or other property owners in Rhode Island maintain their properties and provide children with safe places to live."
The defendants in the Rhode Island case are Atlantic Richfield Co., American Cyanimid Co., DuPont Co., The O'Brien Corp., Cytec Industries Inc., Millennium Inorganic Chemicals, The Sherwin-Williams Co., and NL Industries Inc.