Case Details


Attorney General's Common Law Powers Permit Suit Against Lead Paint Manufacturers.

Filing State



Rhode Island Superior Court




State ex rel. Whitehouse v. Lead Industries Association, 2001 R.I. Super. LEXIS 31, (R.I. Sup. Ct. April 2, 2001)


Attorney General’s common law powers to bring suit as parens patriae permit actions against lead paint manufacturers to protect state’s quasi-sovereign interests in well-being of its citizens.

Case Description

The Attorney General filed suit against a number of lead paint manufacturers and their trade association, alleging that the defendants misrepresented and concealed evidence regarding the hazards of lead. The state sought damages resulting from the substantial costs related to discovering and abating lead, including special education costs for children who have ingested lead paint. The State pleaded ten causes of action, including public nuisance, violation of the state Unfair Trade Practices Act, and common law torts. The superior court held that the Attorney General’s authority to bring this suit is comprised of that which existed at common law, as well as that allowed by statute. The court found that Rhode Island recognizes the parens patriae doctrine, which allows the State to pursue its “quasi-sovereign” interests in the well-being of its citizens. The claims by the State in this case are sufficient to demonstrate the State’s quasi-sovereign interests “in its citizens’ health, safety, and welfare as well as in a healthful environment.” The court also noted that “if the Attorney General could not bring such actions, it appears that wrongs to the public interest would not be able to be vindicated by the State.”