Lead-paint lawsuits moved from state to federal court

Angelos' firm suing several manufacturers

November 02, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Two lawsuits charging paint manufacturers with conspiring to conceal the hazards of lead poisoning -- filed last month in Baltimore Circuit Court by attorney Peter G. Angelos -- have been moved to federal court at the request of the defendants.

Attorneys for Atlantic Richfield Co., one of several companies being sued by Angelos' firm, filed a "notice of removal" Friday to have the cases moved to U.S. District Court in Baltimore. In their filings, the ARCO attorneys cite "diversity" of residency between the parties, saying the plaintiffs lived in Maryland but the defendant companies were incorporated and had their principal place of business in other states.

The one Maryland company named in the Angelos' suits, Bruning Paint Co., was wrongfully sued because it did not begin operations until 1979, after the U.S. government banned the sale of residential lead paint because of its health hazards, court papers say.

Although Bruning bought the name and certain assets of a division of Kewanee Industries, it did not assume any liabilities, papers say.

Ronald Richardson, an Angelos associate working on the case, said Bruning was properly included in the suit and that only one local company was needed to keep the case in state court.

"We will probably be filing a motion to remand" the case to Baltimore Circuit Court, Richardson said.

The case will be heard in federal court, unless a judge sends it back.

One of the Angelos lawsuits seeks $15 million in damages for each of six children younger than age 6 who allegedly suffered severe lead poisoning. The other, filed as a class action on behalf of an estimated 1 million Maryland homeowners whose houses have high levels of lead paint, seeks money to pay for the cost of removing the paint and for reduced property values.

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