Expert Comment: Milwaukee Jury Absolves Lead Paint Manufacturers

Published November 6, 2007

(CHICAGO, Illinois – November 6, 2007) On November 5, a Milwaukee jury ruled in favor of a group of lead paint pigment manufacturers sued by a teen who ate peeling paint as a toddler. The closely watched case has been in the courts for four years.

In the statement below, attorney Maureen Martin, senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute, applauds the jury’s decision. You may quote from this statement or contact Martin directly at 920/295-6032 or 920/229-6670 (cell), or email [email protected].

“Four years ago, a Milwaukee teenager sued a number of paint companies alleging they manufactured lead pigment used in paint he ate as a toddler, seeking $2.2 million in damages. The Milwaukee trial court dismissed the case because the teen could not prove the defendant companies were the manufacturers of the specific pigment he ate.

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed that decision in 2005, holding the plaintiff could recover merely by proving the defendants manufactured lead pigment at the time it was applied to the house where he lived, even though they didn’t manufacture the particular lead pigment he ate. The court remanded the case for trial, which took place during four weeks in October.

“On Monday, November 5, 2007, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant paint companies, after less than a single day of deliberation. It found the plaintiff had not sustained brain damage by ingesting lead-based paint.

“The evidence at trial showed the plaintiff, now 17, is dysfunctional by both nature and nurture. He habitually used marijuana beginning early in grade school, his siblings largely had ‘D’ and ‘F’ academic averages, he was raised in a home deep in garbage, and his IQ was about the same as his father’s. His attorney tried to blame all this on the plaintiff’s ingestion of lead pigment from paint, an argument the jury resisted, and properly so.

“It remains to be seen, however, if the jury’s verdict will stand. The original case was thrown out of court several years ago, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed course in 2005. It’s likely this case will be back before the state Supreme Court again.

“Liability under this theory was rejected by the jury Monday, but the case’s ultimate outcome may depend on whether the April 2008 judicial election in Wisconsin changes the balance on that court from liberal by a 5-4 margin to conservative by a 5-4 margin.”

For more information about The Heartland Institute, please contact Harriette Johnson, media relations manager, at 312/377-4000, email [email protected].