Sherwin-Williams slams AG Lynch, Motley Rice in motion

By John O'Brien | Nov 1, 2007

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - One of the paint companies found liable in Rhode Island's landmark lead paint case had a clear message for state Attorney General Patrick Lynch in a motion filed Wednesday.

Sherwin-Williams is requesting that two portions of DuPont's settlement with the State be removed because they serve only Lynch's interests. DuPont settled before the State's trial against several paint companies, three of which were found liable for creating a public nuisance when they manufactured lead paint.

Sherwin-Williams filed two motions Wednesday -- one to value the DuPont settlement and another to stay the lead paint abatement process ordered by Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein.

"In addition to valuing the overall DuPont settlement, Sherwin-Williams also moves to disgorge two monetary amounts from the settlement that were improperly diverted to two purely private purposes, to satisfy either the Attorney General's or the State's counsel's private interest," attorneys for Sherwin-Williams wrote.

First is $2.5 million earmarked to pay Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Sherwin-Williams says the money is used to satisfy a pledge made previously by Motley Rice, the plaintiffs firm hired by the State to pursue the case on a contingency fee basis.

Motley Rice counsel John McConnell is a campaign contributor to Lynch.

"This contribution has no connection whatsoever to Rhode Island lead paint issues, and the Attorney General had admitted that he knew of no benefit that Rhode Island citizens will receive from this out-of-state contribution," the motion says.

The second is an allotment of $1 million to Brown University, Lynch's alma mater.

"There is absolutely no basis in the law for an Attorney General to sue in the name of the State and then cut a deal whereby settlement money from the case is diverted to third parties, particularly an out-of-state third party," the motion says. "The Attorney General is required to deliver monetary recoveries to the State's General Fund.

"The Attorney General and his contingent fee counsel cannot bypass the General Assembly and the State's budget process and wheel and deal with State monetary recoveries."

NL Industries and Millennium Holdings are the other paint manufacturers found liable. Their appeal is pending before the state's Supreme Court.

Lynch proposed a $2.4 billion abatement plan that Sherwin-Williams is attempting to stay until another company, Cyanamid, has its trial. Only then, Sherwin-Williams says, will each company know what it must contribute to the abatement process.

"(I)t is specifically because of those prior rulings, and, in particular, the decision to try Cyanamid's liability separately, that this motion has become necessary," the motion says. "All five defendants were alleged to be liable for a singular public nuisance. The liability of the remaining defendant must be resolved by a jury before a remedy phase can properly begin."

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