Calif. Court Reinstates Class Action Against Lead Paint Makers

March 14, 2006

A state appeals court in San Jose, Calif. has reinstated a class-action lawsuit alleging that several paint manufacturers knowingly sold harmful lead-based paint products for decades.

The Sixth District Court of Appeal on March 10 reversed a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge’s decision in 2003 to dismiss the lawsuit. The three-judge appeals panel said the lower court ruling was erroneous regarding allegations of public nuisance, liability, negligence and fraud.

The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of cities, counties and school districts that claim they face millions of dollars in costs to remove lead-tainted paint and treat people harmed by exposure. The plaintiffs seek monetary compensation.

The defendants include the Lead Industries Association, Atlantic Richfield Co., American Cyanamid Co., Conagra Grocer Products Co., E.I. DuPont, O’Brien Corp. and Sherwin-Williams Co.

The California appellate court’s decision comes after a Rhode Island jury ruled last month that three former lead paint manufacturers — Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and Millennium Holdings LLC — created a public nuisance that continues to poison children.

“It’s an enormous one-two punch to have the Rhode Island decision come down and then this appeals decision,” said Bruce L. Simon, a Burlingame attorney leading the California class-action lawsuit.

But William Faulkner, a San Jose attorney representing one of the manufacturers, NL Industries, said the fight is far from over. “The decision is ripe for appeal,” he said.

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