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Wisconsin jury rejects lead paint claim

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A Milwaukee County jury has found in favor of five paint companies with former connections to lead paint manufacturing.

Sherwin-Williams, Atlantic Richfield, DuPont, NL Industries and Millennium Holdings were found not liable for the lowered mental faculties of a plaintiff who said he ingested lead paint in two apartments as a child.

The jury found that 17-year-old Steven Thomas, who sued the companies for more than $2 million in damages, was not brain damaged because of lead paint. One attorney, Peter Earle, said he planned to appeal the jury’s decision.

The Milwaukee decision is just one of several recent lead paint court decisions favorable to manufacturers. As in the Milwaukee case, several litigants have argued that paint companies should be liable for contaminated homes, which were painted with lead paint prior to its ban in 1978. Attorneys for paint companies have argued that landlords should be responsible for cleaning up their properties.

Lead paint lawsuits in other states have been rejected for different reasons this year. In Ohio, the state Supreme Court said municipalities must be able to show, without a doubt, who manufactured the paint in contaminated buildings before proceeding with a case against manufacturers.

In New Jersey, the state Supreme Court also said that difficulty in identifying who manufactured lead paint used in homes meant that manufacturers would not face litigation in that state. Prior to the New Jersey decision, the Missouri Supreme Court cited a similar argument in dismissing a lead paint suit in St. Louis.

In 2005, a Rhode Island jury ordered three paint manufacturers to clean up homes in that state — the companies are appealing the verdict.

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BlueLinx reports third-quarter results

BY HBSDEALER Staff

BlueLinx Holdings reported $1.02 billion in sales for its third fiscal quarter, a 15.6 percent decline from sales of $1.20 billion a year ago. Net income for the quarter, which ended on Sept. 29, totaled $890,000, compared to $2.3 million in the third quarter of 2006.

“Our business environment deteriorated significantly in the third quarter as demand declined sharply,” said CEO Stephen Macadam.

Overall, third-quarter unit volume for the company’s estimated weighted end-use markets fell 12.4 percent from a year ago, driven by a 24 percent drop in housing starts and a 10.6 percent decline in the repair and remodel market.

Headquartered in Atlanta, BlueLinx distributes building materials through a network of more than 70 warehouses throughout the United States and Canada.

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Is Lowe’s eyeing India?

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A report in India’s Economic Times newspaper has said Lowe’s is getting much closer to entering India, in a deal similar to one recently forged by Wal-Mart and an India-based retail conglomerate.

The Economic Times quoted an unnamed source who said Lowe’s and India-based Reliance Retail are working on a joint venture to include a cash-and-carry business and a front-end retail venture in that country.

Commenting on the article, Lowe’s spokeswoman Maureen Rich said, “It’s Lowe’s policy not to speculate on market rumors or comment on any rumor of any business transaction.”

Similar to the rumored Lowe’s deal, reports surfaced this spring that Wal-Mart plans to launch wholesale stores in India by mid-2008, with further plans to expand into 75 Indian cities in the next five to seven years. Wal-Mart is expected to enter into a joint-venture agreement with Bharti Group, a conglomerate with interests in mobile phone services and retail stores.

Lowe’s has made moves recently to enter Mexico and Canada, but entering India before entering China would buck the trend started by U.K.-based B&Q and Home Depot. As earlier reported in HCN, India’s retail industry is worth roughly $300 billion and could reach well over $400 billion by 2010.

The Economic Times article characterized talks between Reliance Retail and Lowe’s as being at a “very advanced stage,” while adding that no proposal has gone to the boards of either company.

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