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Appeals court revises lead-paint lawsuit

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  A federal appeals court has ruled against Wisconsin's governor and Legislature, by letting a Milwaukee teen sue up to six paint-makers after he got sick eating lead-based paint chips.

The family of Ernest Gibson, who's now 17, did not know which company made the paint that sickened the teen. The State Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that victims could sue all companies that made lead-based paint before it was banned in the 1970's. Conservatives called the ruling a slap to Wisconsin's efforts to attract business -- and in 2011, majority Republicans required paint victims to identify the companies which made the product which got them sick. Two years later, the G-O-P imposed the same requirement on 170 other lead poisoning victims who filed suit before the burden-of-proof was raised. Gibson was one of those people. Yesterday the Seventh Circuit Appellate court in Chicago found that he had a "vested right" to pursue his negligence claims.

This case also had a profound impact on former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, who wrote the 2005 decision. Butler later lost an election bid, as opponents kept harping on his lead-based paint ruling. Later Republicans in Congress struck down four attempts by President Obama to name Butler to a lifetime federal judgeship.