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Sherwin-Williams, DuPont To Pay Millions In Lead Paint Cases (Law 360)

June 03, 2019

A Wisconsin federal jury awarded $6 million on Friday to three men after agreeing that paint industry companies DuPont, Sherwin-Williams and Armstrong Containers shared responsibility for the lead poisoning they suffered as children.

The jury in Milwaukee awarded $2 million each to plaintiffs Cesar Sifuentes, Glenn Burton Jr. and Ravon Owens in a long-running case that was removed to federal court from Wisconsin state court in 2007. Each of the men was diagnosed with lead poisoning as a young child.

The verdict came after the first phase of a trial that started May 6 and had been set to proceed to a second phase to allocate fault among the three liable companies. But Phase 2 was called off Monday after the companies reached a confidential resolution of the allocation question, according to Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice LLP, the co-lead trial lawyer for the three plaintiffs.

The jury found Friday that Armstrong Containers Inc., DuPont Co. and Sherwin-Williams Co. sold paint — technically, white lead carbonate pigment — that was “defective and unreasonably dangerous due to inadequate warnings” and that each was a cause of the plaintiffs' injuries. The jury let a fourth defendant, Atlantic Richfield Co. Inc., off the hook.

Sifuentes, Burton and Owens, who are all adults now, were all screened for lead poisoning between ages 2 and 3 and were found to have high levels of lead in their blood, according to Fitzpatrick. At that point, the Milwaukee Department of Health tested each of their houses and found they had lead paint.

They were able to pursue the companies under a unique Wisconsin product liability precedent dating to 2005 called “risk contribution.” It makes companies accountable for their lead paint legacies despite the impossibility of telling whose factory or supply chain a particular house's paint came from, according to Fitzpatrick.

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Sifuentes, Burton and Owens are represented by Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice LLP and Edward Wallace of Wexler Wallace LLP.

Armstrong Containers Inc. is represented by Eric Larson of Morris Manning & Martin LLP. E.I. du Pont de Nemours Co. is represented by Jontille Ray of McGuireWoods LLP. Sherwin-Williams Co. is represented by Jeffrey Spoerk of Quarles & Brady and Charles Moellenberg Jr. of Jones Day. Atlantic Richfield is represented by Daniel Flaherty of Godfrey & Kahn SC and Philip Curtis of Arnold & Porter.

The case is Burton v. American Cyanamid Co. et al., case number 2:07-cv-00303, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

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