On March 2, 2022, a Wisconsin federal judge dismissed Burton v. Am. Cyanamid Co., No. 07-C-0303, 2022 WL 623895 (E.D. Wis. Mar. 2, 2022), a lingering fifteen-year accident lawsuits against lead-based paint makers The Sherwin-Williams Co., E.I. DuPont de Nemours & & Co., and Armstrong Containers Inc. In approving the makers’ summary judgment movements, District Judge Lynn Adelman relied upon the procedural concerns that occurred throughout the claim and the 2021 reversal of a $6 million award in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
This decision explains the duty-to-warn legal standard for both carelessness and stringent liability claims are the exact same under Wisconsin law. The choice also verifies that complainants bringing a movement for reconsideration based on freshly discovered proof are required to reveal not only that the proof was freshly found or unknown to them until after the original case, but likewise that complainants could not, with sensible diligence, have found and produced such evidence during the initial proceeding.
Progressing, all celebrations need to understand that associated actions will be bound by the Court’s judgments on typical questions of fact or law to prohibit celebrations a “2nd bite at the apple.”
In 2007, Glenn Burton sued 8 makers of white lead carbonate (WLC) in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court declaring injuries from lead-based paint poisoning. Accuseds eliminated that case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin under variety jurisdiction. Around the same time, plaintiffs Ravon Owens, Brionn Stokes, and Ernest Gibson filed carelessness and rigorous liability claims in state court that were also gotten rid of for variety jurisdiction. However, Brionn Stokes’s case was dismissed in 2016. Represented by the same counsel, complainants Burton, Owens, and Gibson began submitting Problems in the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2010 and 2011.
In 2010, Cesar Sifuentes submitted a Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin for neglect and strict liability claims. In 2011, over 160 people joined together and submitted a single Grievance in Maniya Allen, et al. v. American Cyanamid Co., et al., No. 11-C-1155, showing that the case was associated with the prior cases currently pending before District Judge Lynn Adelman. In 2011, Deziree and Detareion Valoe likewise filed neglect and stringent liability claims in the Eastern District of Wisconsin associated to the other lead-paint cases. The final case was submitted by Dijonae, Ty’Jai, and Jacquan Trammell who were plaintiffs originally part of the Allen action however accepted sever their claims to cure a jurisdictional concern emerging since the 3 were residents of the very same state as one of the accuseds.
Burton’s case was later on consolidated with Ravon Owens, Brionn Stokes, Cesar Sifuentes, Maniya Allen, Deziree Valoe, and Dijonae Trammel. All complainants filed fit against WLC manufacturers demanding an undefined quantity pursuant to Wisconsin statutes, including but not restricted to offsetting and punitive damages.
In April 2016, Judge Lynn Adelman got in a case management order under which the claims of Burton, Owens, and Sifuentes were to get ready for trial initially. These “first-wave” plaintiffs alleged lead-based paint poisoning in their houses. There was a second-wave of cases prepared for trial, but Judge Adelman did not identify those cases included.
By 2018, the paint maker accuseds moved for summary judgment on all claims versus them by first-wave plaintiffs. The defendants argued that the legal standard for determining whether they had a responsibility to alert was the same for both neglect and stringent liability claims. Moreover, the accuseds argued under this single requirement, WLC producers had no duty to caution about the dangers of lead-based paint due to the fact that by the time complainants were residing in their houses in the 1990s and early 2000s, the public was well aware of those risks. As a result, the accuseds argued this public understanding gave them reason to think individuals who consumed its items would understand its unsafe condition. However, the accuseds were not effective as Judge Adelman separated the duty to alert issue in the carelessness context from the responsibility to alert problem in the rigorous liability context. Judge Adelman based her judgment on the complainants’ capability to produce proof “enough to raise a concern of fact as to whether the risks of WLC in paint were ‘dangerous to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the regular consumer who buys it.'” Judge Adelman found that under the rigorous liability standard, the jury might conclude that in between 1910 and 1947, the “public was not fully informed about lead poisoning and the mechanisms of exposure, that [that] therefore the level of the threats known to manufacturers would not have actually been contemplated by customers and users of paint at the time.” In May 2019, the first-wave plaintiffs went to trial and received a $6 million verdict for offsetting damages against Sherwin-Williams, DuPont, and Armstrong. The accuseds appealed this award.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Appellate Court reversed and remanded the trial court’s choice. See Burton v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & & Co., 994 F. 3d 791 (7th Cir. 2021). On remand, the panel held the following: (1) Sherwin-Williams was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, (2) DuPont was entitled to a brand-new trial, and (3) Armstrong was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on one claim and a brand-new trial on another. The Seventh Circuit declined Judge Adelman’s conclusion that the legal standard governing claims for failure to warn under rigorous liability standards are different from a neglect context. The Seventh Circuit concluded for both stringent liability and neglect, the need of cautions relies on “what the ultimate consumer understood, rather than what customers in general knew at the time the maker released the product into the market.” The Appellate Court found Judge Lynn Adelman’s finding that the accuseds had a duty to alert under the stringent liability claims but not for the neglect declares made up legal error.
After remand, the offenders submitted renewed movements for summary judgment prior to Judge Adelman in the District Court. DuPont, joined by Armstrong, argued that the failure to warn, carelessness, and rigorous liability claims stopped working based on the Seventh Circuit’s judgment. DuPont also moved individually for summary judgment “since this Court held that Defendants owed no task to caution Complainants under a negligence theory, neither DuPont nor any of its codefendants could have owed them any responsibility to caution under a stringent liability claim.” Additionally, the offenders filed a brief asking for the District Court take judicial notice of newspaper articles and other public details related to the recognized risks of lead-based paint. The plaintiffs argued “such notice needs to be limited to only establish the date and source of publications of the sent files and not for any other purpose.”
Thinking about the first-wave complainants’ failure to oppose the accuseds’ restored motions for summary judgment on the claims that were remanded for a brand-new trial, Judge Adelman approved those motions and directed entry of judgment on all staying claims of the first-wave plaintiffs.
As the first-wave appeal was pending, the parties in the second-wave filed movements for summary judgment. District Judge Lynn Adelman concluded that “given the general public understanding of the threats of lead paint in the 1990s and early 2000s, the complainants were foreclosed from pursuing carelessness claims that depended on a duty-to-warn theory.” After the decision on the second-wave movements, the Seventh Circuit provided its choice on the first-wave case rejecting Judge Adelman’s conclusion that the legal basic governing claims for failure to warn in the rigorous liability context and negligence context are different. The Seventh Circuit’s choice held that the existence of a responsibility to caution in both the neglect and rigorous liability contexts should be figured out based on the understanding of customers in the 1990s and early 2000s. This choice resulted in the accuseds’ entitlement to summary judgment on all second-wave claims.
The plaintiffs asked for Judge Adelman’s reconsideration of the previous motion for summary judgment that “makers of white lead carbonate had no responsibility toward modern-day consumers about the dangers of lead-based paint since, by the 1990s and early 2000s, those dangers were well known.” The second-wave plaintiffs argued that “the facts supporting Accuseds’ task to alert of the hidden dangers of lead dust validate remedy for the Court’s summary judgment ruling.” However, the concern with the plaintiffs’ argument is that they failed to present the truths on which they relied throughout the original motion for summary judgment. In the initial motion, the complainants yielded that consumers in the 1990s and early 2000s were aware of the risks of lead-based paint and therefore cautions were not needed. Accordingly, the complainants stopped working to point to evidence suggesting that modern customers might have been uninformed of the dangers presented by lead dust. Judge Adelman reasoned although the complainants presented brand-new evidence relating to a modern-day customer’s lack of knowledge of the threats of lead dust, that evidence does not qualify as “newly found evidence” for the purposes of a motion for reconsideration.
This choice offers a clear understanding that the same duty-to-warn legal standard obtains both the neglect and stringent liability context under Wisconsin law, but likewise functions as a tip that a party bringing a movement for reconsideration should show the new proof might not have been brought in the initial proceeding upon sensible diligence.