Litigation Regarding Lead Paint in California

The United States Supreme Court denied the requests by former lead paint manufacturers — Sherwin-Williams Company, NL Industries, Inc., and ConAgra Grocery Products — to review the California Court of Appeal's decision requiring them to pay over $400 million to clean up lead paint in homes located in Santa Clara County and nine other cities and counties in the state on October 15, 2018. The order the companies were trying to fight requires lead paint manufacturers to make payments to a state fund that will cover the costs of stripping lead paint from the inside of homes.

In 2000, Santa Clara County filed the original public nuisance lawsuit against the manufacturers of lead paint alleging that the companies were responsible for marketing and selling a poisonous product that caused illness in thousands of California children each year on behalf of the People of the County, as well as for all the People of the State of California. While Santa Clara County has continued to serve as the primary public entity in the case, other counties and cities joined the litigation, including the City and County of San Francisco; the Cities of Oakland and San Diego; and the Counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Mateo, Solano, and Ventura.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Ruling

The first decision regarding lead paint in California came in 2014. That year, the Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled that the lead paint manufacturers did indeed bear responsibility for marketing a product as being safe despite knowing that the product they produced was very toxic children. While lead paint has been banned for use in residential homes since 1978, it is still present in many houses and apartments across the state. Because lead paint continues to be a problem in California homes, every year, thousands of California children suffer the consequences of having lead paint in their home (e.g., lead poisoning).

California Court of Appeal Decision

The Court of Appeal considered the Santa Clara County Superior Court's ruling in 2017, and ultimately upheld the decision made by the Superior Court, holding that the manufacturers of lead paint were responsible for marketing a product that created a public nuisance in ten counties and cities. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal did choose to refine a few aspects of the Superior Court's decision: they limited the remedy's scope to homes that built before 1951 in the ten cities and counties named in the lawsuit. Additionally, the Court of Appeal elected to remand the case to the Santa Clara County Superior Court to hold a hearing on who would oversee the administration of the associated abatement fund.

Ongoing Case in the Santa Clara County Superior Court

Since being remanded to the Superior Court, there has been some more progress made in the case, with the Court deciding to set the amount of the abatement fund at $409 million, for example. However, the Superior Court still has decisions to make before the funds are distributed to victims of lead paint poisoning. Most importantly, there must be an appointment of a person to serve as the receiver who will perform the tasks associated with administration of the fund and ensure that the money is appropriately distributed to all the counties and cities involved in the lawsuit.

When to Hire a Lead Poisoning Lawyer

While cases like these are working hard to ensure that those who have been affected by lead paint can get the support they need, it can be challenging to navigate these legal issues if you find yourself affected by lead poisoning. If you are dealing with concerns arising from lead paint poisoning in California, consider enlisting the assistance of a lead poisoning attorney who has experience trying these type of cases in court.

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