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Makers of Lead Paint on Trial in California

Sep 23, 2013

Californians who have lead-based paint in their homes will soon discover if the maker of that paint is liable for removing its dangers.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, a state Superior Court judge will rule by the end of the year whether major paint manufacturers will be held accountable for products they put on the market decades ago. If the lawsuit against the paint makers is successful, hundreds of thousands of homeowners could get to split the $2.5 billion in damages currently being sought to remove or cover up their homes’ lead-based paint.

The Wall Street Journal reports that paint makers named in the lawsuit currently under way in California Superior Court are Sherwin-Williams Co., ConAgra Grocery Products Co., DuPont Co., and Atlantic-Richfield Co. All are former makers of lead-based paints or the lead-based pigments that went into household paints before they were banned in the U.S. in the 1970s.

California homeowners have been successful in convincing local and county government officials that lead-based paints present a public health nuisance, which is a key reason that the lawsuit has progressed to the extent that a judge has listened to it. The Wall Street Journal reports that California homeowners were joined in their lawsuits against the paint manufacturers by local governments to see that these companies are forced to pay for the stabilization of the paints they made.

The complaint against the paint makers alleges that while manufacturing these lead-based products prior to when they were banned, the companies were aware of lead paint’s health dangers – but continued marketing them as safe. The lawsuit argues that children exposed to the lead paint prior to its being banned were put at risk of developmental and behavioral complications as they grew up in those homes.

If the lawsuit is successful, the paint makers will be required to pay for the costs associated with either removing or sealing the paint on “friction surfaces” – such as doors, windows, and walls – to reduce the likelihood that lead-based paint chips could become loose and free from their surface – only to perhaps end up in the mouth of a child.

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