Holding Lead Paint Manufacturers Accountable for Selling and Marketing a Product that Poisons Thousands of California Children Each Year
(County of Santa Clara, et al. v. Atlantic Richfield, et al.)
On February 14, 2018, the California Supreme Court denied requests by former lead paint manufacturers—Sherwin-Williams Company, NL Industries, Inc., and ConAgra Grocery Products—to review a Court of Appeal’s decision requiring those companies to pay several hundred million dollars to identify and clean up lead paint in millions of homes built before 1951 in Santa Clara County and nine other California cities and counties. The public nuisance lawsuit was filed in 2000 by then-Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Ravel on behalf of the People of the State of California (People). The County of Santa Clara served as the lead public entity in the case as other cities and counties 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.
In 2014, the Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled that the former lead paint manufacturers were responsible for marketing lead paint as a safe product despite knowing that the product was highly toxic, especially to children. Although lead paint was banned for residential use in 1978, it remains present in millions of homes in California and continues to poison tens of thousands of California children each year.
In 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld the Superior Court’s decision to hold the former lead paint manufacturers responsible for creating a public nuisance in the ten cities and counties. However, the Court of Appeal limited the scope of the remedy to pre-1951 homes in the ten cities and counties and remanded the case to the Superior Court for a hearing on the appointment of a receiver to administer the abatement fund.
After the California Supreme Court declined to review the Court of Appeal’s decision, the former lead paint manufacturers are expected to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, they are sponsoring a ballot initiative for the November 2018 election that would invalidate the judgment and require taxpayers to pay $3.9 billion, through the issuance of State bonds, for the remediation of lead paint and other environmental hazards in homes throughout California.
For more information about the case, the ballot initiative, and proposed legislation related to the lawsuit, click here
Press regarding the case:
- In landmark ruling, Court orders paint companies to pay to clean lead paint out of California homes
LA Times - March 5, 2018
- Lead Paint Makers Lose Another Round
Forbes, November 14, 2017
- Top Verdicts of 2014
Daily Journal, February 18, 2015
- Manufacturers Must Pay $1.15 Billion in Lead Paint Suit
Bloomberg, January 8, 2014
- Lead Paint: Courageous Bay Area Counties Fought for Kids' Health
San Jose Mercury News, January 3, 2013
- Press Release - County of Santa Clara
December 18, 2013
- Judge: Paint Companies to Pay California Cities and Counties $1.1Billion
NPR, December 17, 2013
- Judge Says Lead Paint Companies Owe $1.1Billion
The Recorder, December 16, 2013
- Santa Clara County Fights Back Against Lead Paint Contamination
Metro Active, August 28, 2013