MILWAUKEE (AP) — A federal jury in Milwaukee on Friday awarded $2 million each to three men who sued three major paint and pigment companies which the men claimed were responsible for the lead poisoning they suffered as toddlers in their homes.
The jury agreed with the plaintiffs' claims after a three-week trial, The Journal Sentinel reported. It determined that Sherwin-Williams, Armstrong Container Corp., and DuPont should each pay a portion of the award, depending on their market share, which will be determined next week in the trial's second phase.
The plaintiffs did not have to prove which specific product poisoned them under Wisconsin's unique "risk contribution theory," which was established by the state Supreme Court in 2005.
The companies had to prove they were not marketing or providing their products in Milwaukee at the time the plaintiffs claim they were sickened.
Sherwin-Williams plans to appeal.
"Sherwin-Williams Company has a strong history of working together with public health officials to remove lead from paints decades before the government banned lead paint for residential use and to provide information to the public about the potential risks of deteriorated lead paint," said Antonio Dias, one of Sherwin-Williams' attorneys.
Lead poisoning can cause brain and nervous system damage, as well as learning and behavior problems.
The plaintiffs, Glenn Burton, Ravon Owens and Cesar Sifuentes, struggle with reading comprehension because of childhood lead poisoning, their attorney Fidelma Fitzpatrick told jurors during closing arguments.
"Lead is a weight on their shoulders, holding them back" from certain career choices and opportunities, she said.
Attorneys for the paint companies questioned whether the plaintiffs were injured at all and argued their products were never in Milwaukee during the time the plaintiffs said they were poisoned.
Another Sherwin-Williams attorney, Richard Deane, told jurors that none of the plaintiffs had brain swelling, lead in their bones or MRIs of brain abnormalities.
Lead-based paint was banned in the U.S. in 1978.