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On October 15th, 2018, the United States Supreme Court refused to grant the Writ of Certiorari to review the California Court of Appeals ruling that Sherwin Williams, Conagra and NL Industries are responsible for lead paint contamination in thousands of homes built before 1951.1 2 This decision concludes the 18-years of litigation between 10 California cities and counties the lead paint industry. The cities and counties claimed that the lead paint and lead pigment manufacturers violated California’s public nuisance law by actively selling and promoting the use of lead paint despite knowledge of its health hazards.3 4 5 6 With the State of California Court of Appeals issuing this ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear any further appeals in the case, the two paint companies are now responsible for paying $409 million to a fund that will support the cleanup and remediation of lead-based paint hazards in residential housing in the following 10 California counties and cities: Cities of Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco and the Counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Ventura. NL Industries also reached a settlement with the parties for $60 million in damages that will contribute to the total of $469 million in lead inspection and lead hazard control intervention costs. This is an unprecedented and landmark decision that can have major implications for the current state of funding for the elimination of lead poisoning in residential settings. Note: While affirming the lower court decision, the California Court of Appeals did remand the case back to the trial court and restricted the damage award to damages related to lead hazards in properties constructed prior to 1951. The original bench trial award of $1.15 billion was reduced by the trial court as a result to $409 million.
First, your state or jurisdictions should consider litigation against the lead paint and lead pigment manufacturers, both as a means to generate revenue that will contribute towards the total amount needed for lead hazard remediation and as part of a lead poisoning elimination strategy. Advocates should consider meeting with their local city or county leaders and/or the state attorney general to see whether suing the lead paint and pigment companies is a viable option for their respective jurisdictions to generate sufficient revenue to address lead hazards at scale.