Sherwin-Williams appeals $7M Miss. verdict

John O'Brien Nov. 13, 2009, 2:19pm


FAYETTE, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Sherwin-Williams has filed its notice of intent to appeal a $7 million verdict in favor of a former Mississippi high school sports star who claims the company gave him lead poisoning.

A Jefferson County County Circuit Court jury awarded Trellvion Gaines $7 million in July, and Judge Lamar Pickard recently denied Sherwin-Williams' requests for a new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

The company filed its notice of appeal Thursday. The case has already been before the state Supreme Court once, when the court overturned summary judgment in favor of the company. Lead-based paint was outlawed in 1978.

"It is important to note that not one fully adjudicated case has held former manufacturers responsible," Sherwin-Williams attorney Charles Moellenberg has said. "Throughout its history, Sherwin-Williams has been an industry leader in removing lead ingredients from paints and taking other steps to protect children from poorly maintained paint."

Gaines played wide receiver for Jefferson County High School's football team last year and helped the Tigers reach the Class AAA playoffs. He said he was planning on playing at Southwest Mississippi Community College this year on a scholarship.

He also played for the school's basketball team and was described in a Natchez Democrat article by his coach as "our leader" after scoring 20 points in an early season tournament game.

At the trial, his mother, Shermeker Pollard, said that her son "can't go to college." Gaines' attorneys even produced witnesses that said his deficits would prevent him from attending, Sherwin-Williams' motion says.

Pollard said she knows he's not going to make it in college, and the damages calculation derived from those statements put millions of dollars into the award, the company said.

"Post-verdict statements, however, are diametrically opposed to the testimony proffered at trial," the company wrote. "In a June 29 posting on her MySpace Web site, Plaintif's mother... indicated that Plaintiff is definitely going to college.

"After the verdict, Ms. Pollard has talked about not having to work anymore, shopping until she drops and finding plans for her large new house."

The company says Gaines' enrollment in college undermines the testimony that he can't go to college.

Sherwin-Williams won summary judgment in the case years ago, but the state Supreme Court overturned the decision and reinstated the case.

Gaines' case was a rare loss for the paint industry, which has collected victories in Rhode Island, Missouri, Wisconsin and New Jersey and is battling the contingent fee agreements government entities enter into with private law firms in California.

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