Lead paint makers suffered a landmark defeat Monday when a state court judge in San Jose, Calif., ordered the industry to create a $1.1 billion fund to eliminate lead hazards to children in hundreds of thousands of homes in the state.
The decision broke the industry’s perfect record of defending suits by public agencies seeking to extract money for removal of flaking lead paint from older homes and apartments. It marked a huge victory for 10 California municipalities — including Los Angeles County, and the cities of San Francisco and San Diego — that will be able to draw on the fund for home inspections and repairs if the ruling holds up.
In the 114-page decision, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg found three companies—Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries, Inc., and ConAgra Grocery Products Co.—guilty of creating a public nuisance by manufacturing and selling lead paint long after learning of its dangers. Kleinberg dismissed claims against two other defendants, ARCO and DuPont, finding there was insufficient evidence that they had sold lead paint for use in California homes.
The ruling drew a scathing response from Sherwin-Williams, NL and ConAgra. “The decision violates the federal and state constitutions,” said spokeswoman Bonnie J. Campbell in a prepared statement. “It rewards scofflaw landlords who are responsible for the risk to children from poorly maintained lead paint.”...
Click here to read the complete Decision. People v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al.
Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara
Case No. 1-00-CV-788657