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From Products Liability Law Daily, May 18, 2018

Historic $60.2M settlement to fund lead paint remediation across California

By Colleen Kave, J.D.

An 18-year court battle between the People of the State of California, represented by the County Counsels and City Attorneys of 10 jurisdictions, and former lead paint manufacturers has culminated in an historic $60.18 million dollar settlement. The agreement requires NL Industries, Inc. (NL) to fund lead paint remediation efforts in the Counties of Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Alameda, Monterey, San Mateo, Solano, and Ventura; the City and County of San Francisco; and the Cities of Oakland and San Diego (City Attorney of San Francisco News Release, May 17, 2018).

The settlement arises out of a public nuisance lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court in 2000 (County of Santa Clara v. Atlantic Richfield Co., Case No. 1-00-CV-788657). Other cities and counties joined the litigation, including the City and County of San Francisco; the Cities of Oakland and San Diego; and the Counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Mateo, Solano, and Ventura. In 2014, the court ruled that three former lead paint manufacturers — The Sherwin-Williams Company, ConAgra Grocery Products, and NL— were liable for marketing lead paint [see Products Liability Law Daily’s January 9, 2014 analysis]. Three years later, in 2017, the California Court of Appeal upheld the Superior Court’s decision to hold the former lead paint manufacturers liable for creating a public nuisance in the 10 cities and counties, but limited the scope of the remedy to pre-1951 homes and remanded the case to the Superior Court for a hearing on the appointment of a receiver to administer the abatement fund. The California Supreme Court declined to review the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Also included in the settlement agreement is a provision requiring NL to withdraw its support for a ballot initiative for the November 2018 election, sponsored by the defendants in the case, that would invalidate the judgment and ask taxpayers to pay $3.9 billion, through the issuance of State bonds, for the remediation of lead paint and other environmental hazards in homes throughout California. According to defense counsel Andre Pauka, NL does not agree with the court rulings and does not admit to any of the claims in the case; however, the corporation would rather use its limited financial resources on public health programs than on continued litigation.

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