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July 1, 2005 - Landmark RI Lawsuit Moves Forward

According to the state, an agreement reached between the Rhode Island attorney general and the DuPont Company allows DuPont to avoid further litigation in exchange for $10 million to lead paint removal organizations across the state.  The payment amount may climb depending on actual costs of removal - DuPont forecasts a probable amount of $12.5 million.  Because the payment won't be made to the state, the agreement isn't considered a settlement or plea bargain.  Lead paint was banned in 1978, but it remains in older homes. Children who ingest lead paint or dust can develop learning and behavior problems.

Rhode Island, the first state to sue lead paint manufacturers, has filed suit against eight lead paint manufacturers and a lead industry trade group in 1999.  The suit alleged the companies and manufacturers knowingly produced a harmful product.  The companies, the suit claims, should be responsible for the removal of the harmful products and for the treatment of children harmed by the products.

The suit ended in a mistrial in 2002, and a judge ruled the state could retry the case. A new trial is scheduled to begin in September.

DuPont said Thursday it would give millions of dollars to the Children's Health Forum, a nonprofit group that works to prevent lead poisoning in children. The money will be used for education, abatement of paint and landlord and homeowner compliance programs, the attorney general said. DuPont will donate $1 million to Brown University Medical School to research how best to treat poisoned children and an unspecified amount to the Dana Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center in Boston.

"We have reached a thoughtful and focused alternative to litigation that addresses the concerns of Rhode Island and enhances public awareness of the issues related to lead exposure," Stacey J. Mobley, DuPont's general counsel and chief administrative officer, said in a statement.

The agreement will "make a real and lasting impact on the health and safety of Rhode Island's children," Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch said in a statement.

"What makes this announcement so gratifying is that this money will go straight to cleaning up the mess," Mr. Lynch said.

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