WASHINGTON, March 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The following release was issued today by the National Paint & Coatings Association: A panel of lawyers whose former titles include US Attorney General, US Solicitor General and Attorney General of Virginia yesterday afternoon urged a Maryland House Committee to reject a bill that would remove the burden of proof of causation from lawyers suing lead pigment makers and paint manufacturers for the health hazards of poorly maintained lead paint in old housing. American companies effectively stopped making interior lead paint in 1955. Under the bill, lawyers would not have to prove that a particular company's product was used at a particular site, only that the company was making paint or paint additives containing lead around the time the site was painted. The company could then be required to pay a portion of any award equal to its share of the market at that time. This legal theory, called "market share liability," has been consistently rejected by Maryland courts and an overwhelming majority of other courts that have considered it. No state permits the application of this theory in lawsuits concerning lead paint. In testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee, former Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti urged defeat of the measure stating that such a law would "lead to unfair and grossly distorted findings of liability." Former Solicitor General of the United States and constitutional law expert, Walter E. Dellinger, in his testimony, described the proposal as suffering "from grave constitutional infirmities." He further stated that the proposal "exceeds the limits of permissible retroactivity" under the Due Process Clause and also violates its "prohibition against arbitrary and irrational legislation." Andrew Miller, the former Virginia Attorney General representing the National Paint & Coatings Association, made a similar assessment and aggressively moved to refute allegations made earlier in the hearing by the bill's principal advocate, an attorney representing the Baltimore law firm suing former lead pigment makers and paint manufacturers, among others. Miller documented paint industry actions to protect the public from lead paint hazards years before laws required such actions and cited judicial findings of no lead or paint industry conspiracy against the public health. In rebutting bill proponents' charges that lead paint was promoted long after its dangers were widely known, he produced actual Federal Specifications requiring lead in government purchased exterior paint from as late as 1968, thirteen years after the industry voluntarily adopted a standard, sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which curtailed the use of lead in consumer paints. Miller concluded his testimony by describing to the Committee the CLEARCorps program through which the paint industry, along with the Shriver Center at the University of Maryland (UMBC), the AmeriCorps program and the Department of Housing & Urban Development, has been working for the past four years to develop and implement effective, low cost in-place management techniques to provide "lead safe" housing and innovative lead education programs in Baltimore and a number of other cities. The Committee is not expected to vote on the measure for several days and a companion bill is yet to be heard in the Senate.
SOURCE National Paint & Coatings Association