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Defense Must Cover Own Legal Fees Dispite Prevailing

May 27, 2010 | Posted in : Defense Fees / Costs, Expenses / Costs, Fees as Damages, Legal Bills / Legal Costs, Prevailing Party Issues

A recent Law.com article, “Judge: Lead Paint Companies Must Cover Own Defense Costs” reports that three paint manufactures, including Cleveland-base Sherwin Williams cannot recover money they spent defending themselves in a lawsuit.  In 1999, the state of Rhode Island became the first state to sue paint manufactures over lead-based paint.  In 2008, the state Supreme Court threw out a verdict that would have forced the three companies to spend billions of dollars to remove lead paint from homes and buildings in the state.  After throwing out the verdict, the companies asked the state to reimburse them for legal expenses.

But Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein denied that request, saying the lawsuit was bought in good faith and focused public attention on problems associated with lead-based paint.  The judge said ordering the companies to be reimbursed could deter the state from bringing public health lawsuits in the future.  State law allows the winning side of the lawsuit to recoup legal costs, though at the judge’s discretion.  Attorney General Patrick Lynch called the judge’s decision “courageous” and said the companies’ request for reimbursement was about more than just costs.  “It was meant to intimidate and silence any attorney or jurisdiction that would dare to demand that they be accountable for the products they put into the marketplace,” Lynch said in a written statement.