The public must defend East Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus against Sherwin Williams, Jones Day and Plain Dealer over lead poison

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 10/05/2006 - 09:50.

 

The Plain Dealer finally has their headline article in the battle to protect citizens against lead poisoning - Sherwin Williams is suing East Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus for them filing suit against Sherwin Williams over lead poisoning... this, rather than the impacts and history of lead poisoning, is what has made the headlines in the paper, featured on top of the business section (rather than the front page, where the news belongs). So, Sherwin Wlliams and their local attorneys Jones Day feel they can intimidate or perhaps bankrupt Ohio cities by attacking them over what has already been determined against Sherwin Wiliams and Jones Day in Rhode Island and is in court in 26 other states, all because  Sherwin Wiliams and Jones Day believe Ohio and our courts are so in the pockets of this rich and powerful local company and law firm they will endorse Blackmail.

It will be necessary for the citizens of Ohio to rise to the defense of our crippled core communities, suffering so tragically from lead poisoning. It will be necessary to bring together all the lead poisoning victims and parents and educators and law makers and experts, with all the statistics and data imaginable, to explain to the courts what the media whte-washes... the impacts of lead poisoning knowingly caused for decades with intent to profit by Sherwin Williams and other paint compaines out of greed and contempt for public safety. For centuries it has been well known lead is harmful to humans. If you know people with Alzheimer's, ADHD, autism, low IQ... Sherwin Williams is somewhat to blame. Yet they refuse to take any responsibility. In the article from the PD included below, Sherwin Williams Vice President, Corporate Planning and Communications, says:"We acknowledge there's an issue," Wells said, "but the issue is isolated and manageable in scope." The fact is Sherwinn Williams does nothing to help manage the problem they cause - they do not even provide information about lead and lead testing kits in their over 3,000 paint stores... for that alone, their executives should be jailed.

Ohio is now ground zero in the war against corporate and legal terrorism against the American people - bin Laden is right here in Cleveland. Fight, or accept your civil liberties to live in a safe home, drive a safe car, eat safe food, and speak freely are gone forever. This is the latest in a long series of battles by totalitarian big industries lke the paint and lead industries, lead by mega-law firms like Jones Day, in their war to undermine legal due processes set in place in democracy-America over centuries to protect citizens of America from the abuses of entirely profit-driven mega-corporations that do not care about public health and human rights. If you want to live in a country where it matters not whether a product is safe, then care not about lead and Sherwin Williams. Otherwise, rise up over this issue and let the world know you do not accept corporate brutality. 

Sherwin-Williams sues three cities - Company claims their lead lawsuits are unfair
Thursday, October 05, 2006 - Peter Krouse - Plain Dealer Reporter

Sherwin-Williams Co. has decided the best defense is an offense.

After being sued by two Ohio cities over lead paint hazards, the paint manufacturer has sued back.

It claims the plaintiffs and other cities considering legal action have conspired with money-hungry lawyers bent on fleecing the Cleveland company. And that they should be made to stop.

"These trial lawyers, attempting to garner huge contingency fees, have allied with certain Ohio trial lawyers, to instigate this new wave of litigation by certain Ohio cities," the complaint states.

East Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus are named defendants. East Cleveland and Toledo sued Sherwin-Williams and several other companies on Friday seeking remediation of lead paint hazards in older homes.

Columbus has said it's considering a suit in the future.

Akron filed suit Wednesday after Sherwin-Williams had filed its action in U.S. District Court in Columbus.

All four Ohio cities are represented by Motley Rice, the high-powered law firm that helped Rhode Island win a landmark verdict against the lead paint industry earlier this year.

The defendants there, including Sherwin-Williams, have said they will appeal if their motion to overturn the verdict is denied.

The state of Rhode Island's strategy was to have old lead paint in homes declared a public nuisance that Sherwin-Williams and its co-defendants would have to clean up. A similar approach is being taken in Ohio.

In Rhode Island, the court did not require the state to directly link the defendants to specific hazards, only that it show the defendants had made or marketed lead pigment in the state at one time.

Sherwin-Williams is asking the court to prevent the Ohio cities from proceeding, arguing that it's unfair to be held accountable for lawful actions that occurred long ago, before medical science could determine health risks associated with lead paint. It argues that the owners of property where lead paint has been allowed to deteriorate are responsible for injuries that result when that paint is ingested by children.

Sherwin-Williams argues the public nuisance claims made by the plaintiffs "are arbitrary, impermissibly vague and" so long after the fact that they deny the company due process.

That's an argument that could have merit, said Spencer Neth, law professor at Case Western Reserve University, because it's saying the claims against Sherwin-Williams are so hard to understand that mounting a defense is unacceptably difficult, thus pressuring the company to settle.

But Sherwin-Williams will never settle, its spokesman Bob Wells said.

Wells said if the cities really want to address elevated blood-lead levels in children, they should focus on where children are being exposed and how.

"We acknowledge there's an issue," Wells said, "but the issue is isolated and manageable in scope."

Sherwin-Williams also claims that the use of outside lawyers on a contingency basis is unlawful because it's inappropriate for the government to turn over prosecution to someone who has a financial interest in the outcome.

A variety of law firms, including Motley Rice, are representing the cities on a contingency basis. For example, the deal with Columbus would pay the litigation group one-third of any financial recovery at trial, after legal costs are paid, and 25 percent of any pretrial settlement, after legal costs are paid.

Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer called Sherwin-Williams' suit an attempt to intimidate the plaintiffs and any other cities in Ohio thinking of suing the company over lead paint. It's telling them, "It's going to cost you money. It's going to cost you time. Do you really want to come this way?"

The mayor and law director of East Cleveland did not return calls. Michael O'Shea, a Cleveland attorney working on the legal action in all four cities, said Sherwin-Williams hopes to have the whole matter brought to federal court where judges are perceived to be more conservative and where jury verdicts must be unanimous. The cities filed their suits in state court.

Sherwin-Williams faces lead paint litigation in a number of other states, including public nuisance suits in California and New Jersey where Motley Rice is involved and another in Milwaukee where it isn't.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

pkrouse [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4834
 

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More on Sherwin-Williams suits against our struggling cities

Sherwin-Williams Tries to Block Lawsuits
By Ohio Cities Seeking Lead Paint Damages

        CINCINNATI--Three Ohio cities have filed lawsuits seeking lead paint remediation from pigment manufacturers, one of whom is suing the cities in hopes of short-circuiting the litigation (Sherwin-Williams Co. v. City of Columbus, S.D. Ohio, No. 2:06cv829, 10/2/06).

Sherwin-Williams Co. is seeking an injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio that would keep Ohio cities from moving forward with environmental damage lawsuits which, the company says, are being encouraged by private third-party lawyers "for their own gain."

Within the past two weeks, East Cleveland, Toledo, and Akron have filed lawsuits against Sherwin-Williams and seven other paint manufacturers seeking unspecified damages for lead paint cleanup costs. Columbus is considering the same type of lawsuit.

With its lawsuit, filed Oct. 2, Sherwin-Williams names as defendants cities that have filed actions and any that may do so in the future, dubbing them "John Doe Cities."

The Ohio lawsuits follow Rhode Island's landmark legal victory earlier this year, in which a jury held three paint manufacturers accountable for the public nuisance caused by the presence of lead in buildings and said they should be held responsible for cleanup costs (36 DEN A-2, 02/23/06 a0b2j9j9c6 ).

        Environmental Hazard Alleged
        Rhode Island, the first state to win a judgment against the paint industry for lead contamination, was represented throughout the litigation and at trial by Motley Rice LLC, which has filed lawsuits on behalf of East Cleveland and Toledo. Motley Rice has also signed a contract with Columbus pursuant to similar litigation.

According to East Cleveland's complaint, the first one filed, lead paint manufacturers helped to create an environmental hazard and significant public health crisis in Ohio by manufacturing, distributing, and promoting lead-based paint products long after they were aware of the health risks associated with these products (East Cleveland v. Sherwin-Williams, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, No. CV-06-602785, 9/29/06).

The federal government banned lead paint sales in 1978 after research revealed serious health risks for children.

Jack McConnell, a Motley Rice attorney involved with the litigation, said in a prepared statement, "We are going to court to hold companies accountable for selling a product they knew would hurt kids. Instead of accepting responsibility, they have left children and homeowners, citizens of Ohio, to fend for themselves. It is time that these defendants become part of the solution instead of part of the problem."

        Lawyers, Property Owners Faulted
        The problem here is actually opportunistic lawyers who have instigated this litigation looking to generate huge contingency fees, said Bob Wells, a spokesman for Sherwin-Williams.

Sherwin-Williams wants the cities to reconsider these "baseless" lawsuits, said Wells, noting that paint companies should not be held to medical standards that were unknown decades ago when the paints were made. To do so violates the company's right to due process, he said, adding if lead paint poses a threat to children today, abatement is the responsibility of property owners, not paint companies.

Outside lawyers have convinced these cities to go after paint companies and their "deep pockets" rather than focusing attention on property owners, who are the ones directly responsible for creating any public health nuisance, said Wells.

According to the Sherwin-Williams complaint, municipalities using private trial lawyers violate the company's right to due process by a financially disinterested public official. Moreover, Sherwin-Williams says it is being sued because it belongs to industry trade groups, thereby violating its freedom of association and free speech rights.

Toledo Law Director John Madigan said the Sherwin-Williams lawsuit is without merit because it asks the federal court to prevent the cities from seeking remediation claims.

"The law does not allow one court to stop another court from making a decision," Madigan said.

Law departments for the other cities echoed Madigan's assessment and said the Sherwin-Williams lawsuit would not keep them from moving forward with their cases.

In addition to Sherwin-Williams, defendants in the cities' lawsuits are Millennium Holdings LLC, ConAgra, DuPont, Atlantic Richfield Co., NL Industries Inc., Cytec Industries, and American Cyanamid.

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