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Rhode Island overturns lead paint verdict

A landmark lead paint verdict, which held several prominent paint companies liable for lead paint contaminated homes in Rhode Island, has been overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

The decision, announced today, unanimously overturned the February 2006 verdict, which found Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries and Millennium Holdings liable for creating a public nuisance by selling lead-containing paint products that were used in homes.

The companies had been on the hook for a potentially multi-billion dollar cleanup operation in Rhode Island had the verdict been maintained.

Other states and municipalities have found in favor of paint companies, while prosecutors have argued the companies -- not local governments -- are responsible for those homes where lead paint remains.

The New Jersey Supreme Court found paint companies not liable for cleanup in that state, primarily because it was deemed too difficult to identify which company manufactured the paint used in a given home. Also last year, the Missouri Supreme Court cited a similar argument in dismissing a lead paint lawsuit in St. Louis.

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