PROVIDENCE, RI - In a 4-0 decision, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has overturned a verdict against three former lead paint producers. The court reversed a 2006 decision in which a jury found Sherwin-Williams Co., Millennium Holdings LLC and NL Industries Inc. liable for creating a public nuisance by manufacturing and selling a toxic product.


The lawsuit, filed by the Rhode Island State Attorney General, was the first to impose liability on lead paint manufacturers. In the ruling, the justices stated that the trial justice erred in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss. And while the court acknowledged that lead paint was a public health problem in the state, it did not find the companies responsible to clean it up, since they had no control over the specific use of the paint.


In the opinion, the justices stated, “In reaching this conclusion, we do not mean to minimize the severity of the harm that thousands of children in Rhode Island have suffered as a result of lead poisoning. Our hearts go out to those children whose lives forever have been changed by the poisonous presence of lead. But, however grave the problem of lead poisoning in Rhode Island, public nuisance law simply does not provide a remedy for this harm.”