McGraw's lead balloon

by The West Virginia Record |
Apr. 18, 2008, 7:53am

Feel like doing the fighting for the trial bar?

Thanks to State Attorney General Darrell McGraw, we West Virginians have joined another trial lawyer-concocted fracas, this one against the entire $21 billion, 354,000-employee U.S. paint industry.

This week, McGraw joined an amicus brief in the Rhode Island Supreme Court, quietly bestowing the blessing of all West Virginians upon his crusading counterpart, that state's Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who wants a cool $2.4 billion to abate the problem.

Led by mega-plaintiff's firm Motley Rice, Lynch is supporting a state-powered assault against the largest paint manufacturers in
America. He's accusing them of creating a "public nuisance" by making and selling lead paint many decades ago when it was legal and society's only available option.

Lead paint was banned by the federal government in 1978; neither Lynch nor McGraw nor any of the professional grievance-makers at Motley Rice allege the companies in their crosshairs, household names like Dutch Boy and Sherwin-Williams, has broken the law.

There is no specific evidence in the case that anyone has been hurt by the paint companies' pre-1978 paint, or that lead paint's existence on older structures threatens a health epidemic.

Some of the paint is still out there. One coat of post-1978 paint over the old, and the threat is gone. How many locations haven't been painted in 30 years?

But simple, practical solutions might obstruct the ambitions of trial lawyers hunting for jackpot justice. In lead paint, they smell another
tobacco payday--a lever through which they corral the heft of the state to produce hundreds of millions in fees from law-abiding companies. For men like Lynch and McGraw, the prospect is mouthwatering.

The promise here is money--not just for trial lawyers, but for politicians, too. Too often, the legal fees trickle down via plaintiff's firms to their favorite politicians' campaigns.

Since they started working with AG Lynch, the partners of Motley Rice, based in Charleston, South Carolina, have become some of Rhode Island's leading campaign contributors. Sound familiar?

When Darrell McGraw crosses state lines, going out of his way to take such outlandish, tyrannical positions, he discredits not just his own reputation but that of our state. If we want West Virginia to be taken seriously as a place that means business, this anti-corporate crusading must stop.

More News