Lead paint suit is sent back to state court

Judge says splitting cases would not be sensible

November 30, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The second of two lawsuits charging paint manufacturers with conspiring to conceal the hazards of lead poisoning has been ordered by a federal judge to be sent back from federal court to state court.

Attorneys for the manufacturers filed a "notice of removal" last month to move the lawsuits -- filed by attorney Peter G. Angelos in Baltimore Circuit Court -- to federal court, arguing that the plaintiffs lived in Maryland but the defendants were incorporated in other states.

This month, U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin rejected that reasoning, sending one lawsuit -- seeking $15 million in damages for each of six children with lead poisoning -- back to state court.

In a memorandum and order issued yesterday, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis followed Smalkin's lead, and sent the second suit back to state court. That class action suit seeks an unspecified amount of damages on behalf of an estimated 1 million Maryland homeowners whose houses have high levels of lead paint.

Garbis said that he agreed with Smalkin's decision, but added that if he didn't, it would have been "less than sensible" to have the two suits in separate courts.

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