Ruling: R.I. Must Reimburse Lead Paint Companies

Judge has ruled that Rhode Island must reimburse more than $240,000 to three former lead paint companies after a landmark jury verdict against the companies was overturned.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The state of Rhode Island must reimburse more than $242,000 to three companies that succeeded in overturning a jury verdict that could have forced them to spend billions of dollars cleaning up homes contaminated with lead paint, a judge ruled Thursday.

Rhode Island was the first state to win a lawsuit against the lead paint industry, when a jury in February 2006 found Sherwin-Williams Co., Millennium Holdings LLC and NL Industries liable for creating a public nuisance by manufacturing lead pigment used in paint.

The state then drafted a sweeping $2.4 billion proposal that called for the companies to clean lead paint contamination from an estimated 240,000 older homes in the state. But the verdict was overturned in July by the state's highest court before any cleanup could begin.

The money ordered reimbursed to the companies was paid to two public health experts who were hired to evaluate the state's proposal for cleaning up the homes.

In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein said the companies should not have to pay for the experts now that the lawsuit has ended in their favor.

"The entire foundation for the defendants' liability in this case is based on a jury verdict that has been reversed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court," the judge wrote.

The companies also are trying to recover additional money spent on the lawsuit, such as for depositions and filing fees, but have not said how much they are seeking. A private law firm hired by the state to help try the case has said it spent $1.9 million.

A spokesman for the state attorney general did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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