Motley Rice must keep Sherwin-Williams info a secret

John O'Brien Apr. 10, 2009, 1:42pm

Ron Motley

CLEVELAND (Legal Newsline) - Plaintiffs firm Motley Rice make public documents stolen from paint company Sherwin-Williams, an Ohio judge ruled Thursday.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell signed a temporary restraining order that forbids Motley Rice from releasing or destroying a 34-page presentation made to Sherwin-Williams' board of directors. The firm is involved in litigation against the company, most notably in the State of Rhode Island's landmark lead paint case.

The 34-page presentation detailed the costs of defending such cases. Sherwin-Williams filed its complaint April 3.

"As a publicly traded company, Sherwin-Williams has a responsibility to its shareholders to safeguard its confidential business plans and trade secrets. Despite Sherwin-Williams' repeated requests over the last six months, including another request last week before filing its lawsuit, Motley Rice refused to return these documents to Sherwin-Williams or to explain how it got them," said Sherwin-Williams attorney Jim Wooley, of Jones Day.

Motley Rice must file the presentation under seal. Wooley said the company intends to go forward with discovery to determine how Motley Rice obtained it.

Motley Rice represented Rhode Island on a contingency fee in the first lawsuit filed by a state against the former manufacturers of lead paint, which was outlawed in 1978. It was filed in 1999 and alleged the companies created a public nuisance by making lead paint.

Sherwin-Williams, Millennium Holdings and NL Industries were found liable in 2006 , but on July 1, the state Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Superior Court verdict.

The 1999 suit resulted in a mistrial, the second (filed by current Attorney General Patrick Lynch) in the verdict against the three companies. It was the longest civil trial in state history.

After the mistrial and while then-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse prepared to leave office in 2002, Jack McConnell, of the firm's Providence office, contributed $1,000 to Lynch's election efforts.

In Lynch's next campaign, McConnell gave him $2,000. In between, in Lynch's non-election year of 2004, McConnell still gave him $2,000.

Several similar suits brought by cities in Ohio were dismissed, and new Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray voluntarily dismissed the State's.

Other suits have failed in Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio and New Jersey.

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