Tie Sends Lead-Paint Case to Lower Wis. Court

     (CN) – A theory that would open the door to dozens of lead-paint lawsuits must be decided by a state appeals court, an evenly split Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled.
     The Legislature in 2013 amended a law that stopped attorneys from using the risk-contribution theory in lead-paint lawsuits.
     The theory would allow a plaintiff to sue several paint manufacturers based on their market share, even when the accuser is not sure who made the paint that caused the injury.
     Nearly 175 lawsuits were filed after the Wisconsin Supreme Court initially validated the theory in 2005, according to an Associated Press report.
     However, in 2014, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher declared the law to be an unconstitutionally retroactive prohibition on the theory and a due process violation.
     The Seventh Circuit agreed with him and allowed a lead-paint lawsuit to proceed using the risk-contribution theory.
     Sherwin-Williams, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., and other paint manufacturers sought to overturn Hansher’s ruling, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed last December to hear the case.
     Justice Rebecca Bradley was elected on April 5, the same day as oral arguments in the lead-paint case. She did not participate in the decision, and the other six justices were deadlocked 3-3.
     Justices Shirley Abrahamson, Ann Walsh Bradley and Patience Roggensack would affirm Hansher’s ruling. Justices Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman and David Prosser would not.
     Therefore, on April 15, the state’s top court remanded the case to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
     “We have often stated that when a tie vote occurs in this court on a bypass or certification, ‘justice is better served in such an instance by remanding to the court of appeals for their consideration,'” the justices stated in last week’s unsigned opinion.

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