Ill. Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal on Chicago Suit Against Prior Manufacturers of Lead Pigment

January 14, 2005

An Illinois appeals court on Friday unanimously upheld the circuit court’s dismissal of the City of Chicago’s lawsuit against former manufacturers of lead pigment used in paint.

The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District held that companies that have not made pigment for use in house paint for decades cannot be held liable for creating a public nuisance.

In its decision, the court said: “We therefore hold that the conduct of
defendants in promoting and lawfully selling lead-containing pigments ago, which was subsequently lawfully used by others, cannot be a legal cause of plaintiff’s complained-of injury, where the hazard only exists because Chicago landowners continue to violate laws that require them to remove deteriorated paint.”

Bonnie Campbell, former Attorney General of Iowa and spokesperson for the defendants, said: “The court’s decision reflects what Americans know to be true – companies that made lead pigment used in paint decades ago are not responsible for poorly maintained homes where children are exposed to lead paint risks today. The City’s lawsuit ignored state and local laws that require property owners, not former manufacturers, to maintain their properties in a lead-safe condition.The city should end this wasteful lawsuit and focus its attention on enforcing the law against those landlords who do not take care of their properties.”

The court also stated, “… the legislature has enacted the Lead Prevention Act (410 ILCS 45/1 et seq. (West 2000)), which places the
responsibility upon landowners to remediate the effects of eteriorated lead- based paint.”

Friday’s ruling upholds the October 2003 dismissal of the City’s suit by Judge Arnold of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Similar public nuisance claims have reportedly been dismissed in California and New Jersey.

“Today’s ruling is a sound, well-reasoned decision that is consistent with dismissals in other cases,” Campbell said. “Like the other cases, the Appeals Court here has refused to apply public nuisance law in cases against companies that long ago made lead pigment or that bought businesses that made lead pigment.”

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