Wisconsin justices send lead paint case back to lower court

MADISON — The state Supreme Court has deadlocked on whether the Legislature properly banned a legal theory that allowed dozens of lead paint lawsuits to proceed.

Legislators in 2013 passed a law barring attorneys from using the risk contribution theory as a basis for pending lead paint poisoning lawsuits. The theory apportions liability based on a manufacturer's market share, enabling lawsuits even if the plaintiffs aren't sure which manufacturer's paint poisoned them.

Attorneys in one pending case argued lawmakers couldn't apply the prohibition retroactively. A group of paint-makers asked the 1st District Court of Appeals to take the case but that court kicked the case directly to the Supreme Court.

The justices said Friday they tied 3-3. Justice Rebecca Bradley didn't participate. They asked the appellate court to make a decision