In February 2006, Rhode Island successfully sued three former lead-paint manufacturers for creating a public nuisance. A claim for punitive damages was denied, however, the defendants face an estimated $4 billion in costs to clean up or cover lead-based paint. Following this decision, a number of cities including Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Cincinnati have initiated lawsuits.
However, a backlash against pubic nuisance law has arisen. The Ohio state legislature passed a bill which requires plaintiffs to file a product liability suit and not a public nuisance suit. This effectively caps non-economic damages, including punitive damages, at $5,000 and prevents public-nuisance lawsuits against lead-paint manufacturers and restricts claims for costs of clean up in older buildings. Former Governor Bob Taft did not veto the bill during the 10-day period, and the bill was passed into law by the Legislature.
In response, the city of Columbus filed a lawsuit against several lead-paint manufacturers seeking that the defendants be ordered to detect and abate lead in all residences, school, hospitals and other buildings in the city which are accessible to children. The city wants the defendants to fund a lead screening and education program and pay punitive damages.
However, a court action is expected to decide if the Ohio state bill had passed into law before the new Governor Strickland 's veto took place.
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