A source in Milwaukee button-holed me this evening to:
- Make a point that the USA TODAY article on lead paint was "written from the plaintiff perspective," and
- Document why this source was convinced of this.
Since the article was published, plenty of lead-paint watchers had reached a state of high agita. I hadn't. Actually I saw the piece as appropriately cautious. This source did convince me otherwise tonight.
To start with, the source noted that the "experts" mentioned such as Philip J. Landrigan MD of Mount Sinai have been paid witnesses for the plaintiff in a number of legal proceedings such as Rhode Island Lead Paint Trial II and City of Milwaukee v NL Industries. Yet this was not disclosed in the article. Should there have been an effort to ferret out experts with no paid association to the plaintiff, therefore, no obvious agenda?
And talking about agenda, there was no analysis of the possible link between the advocacy of replacement windows, which is a more expensive abatement procedure than keeping lead paint intact with a simple coat or two of paint, and the possible contingency fee to be paid to the private counsel used by the plaintiff. In RI II, that fee is 16+ percent of the settlement or abatement. The higher the estimate, for instance, for abatement the higher the gross would be for the private counsel. Incidentally, the CDC and other federal and state agencies go down on the side of a few coats of paint as an effective abatement process instead of expensive replacement of windows and doors. And even if those windows and doors got replaced the hazard usually is the lead dust on the floor.
The source also questioned, as did the East Coast legal expert on this blog this morning and a Battelle study, whether replacing the windows in the Milwaukee experiment was or was not a significant factor in the decline of elevated levels of lead in children's blood. Numerous other variables could have been involved such as educating parents to wash the child's hands often.
Should those representing the lead paint industry have been interviewed for this article? I was informed that one such person was interviewed but was not quoted in the article.
The source also was aghast that it was not mentioned how many public nuisance cases have been tossed in other jurisdictions and that the verdict in RI II is being appealed.
The bottom line issue is, of course: Will the state and Motley Rice in RI II use the USA TODAY article to strengthen their hand in the abatement proposal in RI?
The source convinced me that the article could have been more balanced. However, I did not and do not perceive it as very influential in the Lead Wars. So much has been contended that I glaze over when I read what's written and hear what's spoken. All I pay attention to is actions. For example, in "Thomas," all the counts but one have been tossed. That registers with me.