Judge: Paint companies to pay Calif. cities $1.1B

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm •  Published: December 16, 2013
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A state judge on Monday ordered paint companies to pay 10 California cities and counties $1.1 billion to remove lead from millions of older homes.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg found that Conagra Grocery Products Co., NL Industries Inc. and the Sherwin-Williams Co. marketed paint they knew was harmful to children. Atlantic Richfield Co. and DuPont Co. were found not liable.

The industry has faced similar lawsuits across the country but has won most of them.

Kleinberg's verdict came after a five-week trial without a jury. The companies have 15 days to object to the tentative ruling, which the judge can alter.

"There is a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed," Kleinberg wrote in his 110-page decision. "The defendants sold lead paint with actual and constructive knowledge that it was harmful."

Lead-based paints were barred from the U.S. market in 1978, but millions of homes painted before then still pose a health risk.

The industry argued that it never deliberately sold a harmful product and that the old paint is no longer a significant public health risk. The companies argued that children diagnosed with lead poisoning could have gotten sick from sources other than paint.

"The existence of other sources of lead exposure has no bearing on whether lead paint constitutes a public nuisance," Kleinberg wrote in today's opinion. "It does not change the fact that lead paint is the primary source of lead poisoning for children in the jurisdictions who live in pre-1978 housing."

Bonnie Campbell, a spokeswoman for the companies, said the paint manufacturers will urge the judge to overturn his decision. Failing that, she said the companies will seek a mistrial. If the judge upholds his verdict, Campbell said the companies will appeal.

Campbell said the verdict unfairly penalizes companies for marketing lead-based paint in good faith before the health risks were known. She said the current owners of pre-1978 painted homes should be responsible for removing the lead.



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