LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 8 no 2, 2001, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Tobacco-Deal Lawyers Gun for Makers of Lead

Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press AP (Associated Press).
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, World Business, p24, Friday 11 June 1999.

Washington: Armed with new legal theories, trial lawyers and politicians across the US are gearing up to mount a major assault on former makers of lead paint, which was banned in homes in 1978 but still poisons children in older buildings.

The potential battle borrows much of its inspiration from the recent legal assault on big tobacco – a confrontation that wrung a $US240 billion ($362 billion) settlement from cigarette makers after US States took on the industry in a series of lawsuits. Just as the tobacco suits sought to recover Medicaid funds used to treat sick smokers, lead paint lawsuits would likely seek recovery of government funds spent on medical care or to remove lead from housing.

Many of the same lawyers who made millions in the tobacco litigation are jumping into the fray, wooing potential clients. Some are enlisting the help of sympathetic attorneys-general who may now feel emboldened to target an industry that has never paid a cent in damages.

In the District of Columbia, the administration of Democrat mayor Mr Anthony A. Williams plans to introduce a bill to revamp the city’s lead-control laws and ease the way for potential lawsuits against former lead-pigment manufacturers.

In Rhode Island, the Attorney General is preparing a lawsuit to recoup medical and other government costs of lead poisoning.

Baltimore Orioles owner Mr Peter Angelos, the lawyer who led Maryland’s legal campaign against tobacco, has begun drafting a potential suit against lead paint manufacturers.

Another heavy-hitting lawyer, Mr Jack McConnell, who South Carolina firm helped craft the huge multi-State tobacco settlement, is pressing a suit in Cleveland.

The activity marks the revival of the battle that had faded from American public consciousness during the past 20 years, as the Federal Government banned the use of lead in paint and the industry beat back major lawsuits.

Paint makers deny responsibility. They say lead-paint makers voluntarily stopped using lead in interior paints in the 1950s and supported the ban approved in 1978.

They also say most problems related to exposure now are the result of poor maintenance by housing owners.

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