In ruling that three paint manufacturers have known since the early 20th Century of the danger the use of lead paint inside homes posed to children, a California appeals court has upheld the bulk of a judge’s reasoning in ordering the paint companies to pay more than $1 billion for their alleged contributions to a “public nuisance” caused by the continued presence of lead paint in old homes.

In its Nov. 14 decision, the three-justice panel of the California Sixth District Appellate Court, however, pared the judgment back a bit, saying the paint companies should only be held responsible for funding the investigation and removal of lead paint from homes in seven of California’s most heavily populated counties and three of its largest cities – which, according to estimates provided in the decision, could amount to nearly 1.6 million homes across the Golden State.

The panel declined to estimate the extent of the cost for which the companies may be on the hook now, however, sending that question back to the Santa Clara County court to decide.

The defendants have pledged to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.

The opinion was authored by Justice Nathan M. Mihara, with justices Eugene M. Premo and Frankin D. Elia concurring.

The decision comes as the latest scene in the litigation dating back nearly two decades, when the counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Montery, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Ventura, and the cities of Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco first filed suit against a number of paint manufacturers that had in the past manufactured and sold lead-based paint.

The municipal governments had argued the paint merchants should be held liable for promoting the use of toxic lead paints inside homes and other residential buildings until lead-based paint was banned in 1978.

Sherwin Williams issued a statement following the ruling: 

“Even though the appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision in part, it is at odds with California law and judicial decisions from seven other states that have uniformly rejected similar public nuisance claims. The Defendants will ask the Supreme Court of California to review the intermediate appellate court’s decision at the appropriate time.”

 

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