Cases & Deals

Sherwin-Williams obtains affirmance of summary judgment in Lewis class action

Client(s) Sherwin-Williams Company, The

On May 21, 2020, Jones Day obtained a decision from the Illinois Supreme Court reversing the appellate court and affirming the grant of summary judgment in favor of The Sherwin-Williams Company (and several other former white lead pigment manufacturers) in a lawsuit pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. The summary judgment dismissed the class representatives in that lawsuit. Lewis is a state-wide class action alleging that the defendants conspired to conceal the risks that interior, lead-based paint posed to children, which in turn caused the Illinois legislature to pass a law requiring blood lead tests as part of routine well-child exams in Illinois. The plaintiffs were parents who requested reimbursement for the costs of those tests. They alleged solely economic damages and expressly disclaimed any claims for personal injury. After almost 20 years of protracted litigation, the defendants obtained summary judgment in the trial court dismissing the three named class representatives after demonstrating that they had not paid for, and were not obligated to pay for, their children's blood lead tests. Two class representatives were Medicaid recipients who had not paid for the blood lead tests, and the other class representative had no evidence that she or her private health insurance paid for the tests. Therefore, they had no cognizable injury as well as no standing to bring any claims against the defendants.

The appellate court reversed the trial court, holding that the plaintiffs could show injury through Illinois' Family Medical Expense Act, which makes both parents responsible for their children's medical expenses, or through the state's collateral source doctrine. The Illinois Supreme Court overturned the appellate court on all fronts and affirmed the Circuit Court, ruling that injury-in-fact is essential to both standing and the elements of the plaintiffs' claims. Because the plaintiffs could not show economic injury-in-fact without an out-of-pocket expense, they all were properly dismissed on summary judgment. The Illinois Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Circuit Court for further proceedings consistent with its ruling.

Mary Lewis, et al. v. Lead Industries Ass'n, et al., Nos. 2020 IL 124107 (Ill.); 00 CH 9800 (Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., Ill., Chan. Div.)