Milwaukee jury awards $6 million damages to lead poisoned young men

A Milwaukee, Wis., jury has found lead pigment manufacturers The Sherwin-Williams Co., E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., and Armstrong Containers, Inc., responsible for the toxic lead exposures of three young men, all residents of Milwaukee and minors at the time of their lead exposure in their homes. The jury awarded $6 million total, $2 million to each plaintiff.

Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice LLC and Edward Wallace of Wexler Wallace LLP represented the three plaintiffs in the consolidated trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) over the four-week trial that started on May 6, 2019.

The jury found that all three plaintiffs were severely poisoned in their homes by lead paint and pigment as children.  Each of the young men has continued to suffer effects from their lead poisoning into their adult lives. The case proceeded under Wisconsin’s unique law of risk contribution that allows plaintiffs to sue defendants for increasing the risk of harm to the public by manufacturing a dangerous product.

The homes the plaintiffs lived in were all constructed prior to 1978, when lead paint was banned. “Poisoning from lead paint has lasting, long-term effects, especially for children exposed at young ages,” said Fidelma Fitzpatrick, co-lead trial counsel and Motley Rice lawyer for the plaintiffs. “Some of these lasting exposure effects have and will impact them for their entire lives. We are gratified that the jury came to the conclusion that companies that knowingly manufactured these toxic products should be held accountable for the harmful, life altering effects they have caused. It was an honor to give voice to these clients in Court.”

The jury was shown test results that proved the plaintiffs had severely elevated blood lead levels, ranging from 32 to 53 micrograms per deciliter. A level of 5 mg/dl is now considered lead poisoning under Wisconsin law, although no level of exposure to lead or lead paint is believed to be safe. While this poisoning occurred more than a decade ago, the effect on the young men’s daily lives is still evident today and will unfortunately continue for the rest of their lives.

“The jury carefully considered all of the evidence establishing that these companies were negligent and created an unimaginable risk of harm,” said Ed Wallace, co-lead trial counsel and Wexler Wallace attorney for the plaintiffs. “They realized that our clients have and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives because of the acts of these three defendants.”

The jury found that despite knowledge that white lead carbonate pigment, even when used as intended, was hazardous to human health, the defendants continued to market or sell it for use in homes and around children. The jury found that the defendants also failed to warn of the hazardous nature of their lead pigment, making the product unreasonably dangerous to people who may use it.

According to the CDC, lead paint is the primary cause of lead exposure for children who live in older homes. Despite lead paint being outlawed for residential purposes by the Federal Government more than 35 years ago, it is still present in more than 24 million homes built prior to 1978, and continues to threaten the health of families and children.

Fidelma L. Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice LLC and Edward Wallace from Wexler Wallace LLP were lead trial counsel. Other Motley Rice lawyers for the plaintiffs were Robert J. McConnell, Sara O. Couch and Caroline Rion. Motley Rice co-counsel were Vic Harding of the Warshafsky Law Firm, Peter Earle of the Law Office of Peter Earle and Neil Leifer of Neil T. Leifer Law, LLC. The cases are: Glenn Burton, Jr., vs. American Cyanamid Co., et al; Ravon Owens vs. American Cyanamid, et al, Case No. 07-C-0441; and Cesar Sifuentes vs. American Cyanamid Co., Case No. 10-C-0075; all are filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin.