David Rosner & Gerald Markowitz: Historians' testimony cited by state in lead paint case

Historians in the News

The State of Rhode Island, backed by briefs from more than 50 organizations and public health experts, filed legal papers yesterday urging the state Supreme Court to reject an appeal by three corporations seeking to overturn a jury’s verdict two years ago that found their lead-based paints created a nuisance by poisoning children throughout the state....

Most of the evidence came in testimony by David Rosner, a professor of history and public health at Columbia University, who co-wrote Deceit and Denial, a book about lead poisoning. Rosner testified that all three companies heavily advertised and sold their paints in Rhode Island.

Rosner’s co-author, Gerald Markowitz, a professor of history at John Jay College, also testified that there was extensive evidence that the companies were fully aware that their products were poisoning children and they discussed the resulting bad publicity as long ago as 1930.

The state in its papers described litigation that was “fierce” at times. It said at one point there were 121 lawyers who appeared for the defendants. Written legal pleadings exceeded 2,000. Trial judge Michael A. Silverstein issued 18 written decisions and 174 separate orders. Some 412 depositions were taken. On the eve of trial, defendants requested an emergency stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. The state’s lawyers produced tens of millions of pages of documents.

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