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Communities and child health advocates around the country had pinned their hopes on Rhode Island prevailing in its landmark lawsuit against the lead paint industry.

Now, after the state Supreme Court threw out the first-ever jury verdict finding former lead paint companies liable for creating a public nuisance, at least one city says it's rethinking a similar lawsuit against the industry, and one of the lawyers in the Rhode Island case predicted the decision would have a "devastating" effect on national efforts to hold the manufacturers accountable for their products. Still, other lawyers with pending cases say they're not deterred.

"There's no question about it, that the Supreme Court of Rhode Island has stopped any progress nationally to get justice for lead-poisoned kids," said Jack McConnell, a lawyer who represented the state and is involved in other lawsuits over lead paint. "It has a devastating effect on progress nationwide."

The 2006 verdict against Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and Millennium Holdings LLC had been the only victory against the industry. It gave advocates hope for future success even though courts around the country have more recently rejected similar suits against the companies.

But the Supreme Court's opinion last week seemed to underscore the difficulty in successfully suing the industry, and other states and communities tracking Rhode Island's case could be less inclined to take up a costly court fight with uncertain prospects of victory.


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