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February 16, 2018

California Lead Paint Verdict Upheld: Supreme Court denies review of defendant appeal

In a late ruling on February 14, the Supreme Court of California declined to review a request to overturn a series of lower court decisions that found three lead pigment companies created a public nuisance by promoting the use of lead pigment in paint in homes, and that an abatement funded by the defendants was needed in order to mitigate the harm done. By declining to review the appeal, this historic lead paint verdict was upheld.

Defendants in the litigation, People v. Conagra Grocery Products Company, Case No. S246102, are Sherwin-Williams Company, NL Industries, Inc., and ConAgra Grocery Products Company. Motley Rice, with co-counsel, represents plaintiffs in the case.

The defendants’ appeal of the litigation followed a November ruling by a three-justice panel of the California Court of Appeals, 6th District that affirmed the majority of a January 2014 ruling by Judge James P. Kleinberg. In doing so, the appellate panel determined that the defendants must remove toxic lead paint from pre-1951 constructed homes in the plaintiffs’ jurisdictions: Santa Clara County, Alameda County and the City of Oakland, the City and County of San Francisco, the City of San Diego, Los Angeles County, Monterey County, San Mateo County, Solano County, and Ventura County.

The panel remanded the litigation back to the Santa Clara Superior Court to calculate the final costs to fund the abatement and cleanup effort.

“The risks associated with lead paint are clear and have been clear for a long time,” said Motley Rice attorney Fidelma Fitzpatrick, who served as lead trial counsel for plaintiffs in the 2013 trial. “The longer the defendants delay taking necessary measures to fund abatement so that toxic paint can be safely removed from California homes, the more children will be at risk every day of neurological damage and other effects of lead poisoning and exposure. By refusing to consider the defendants’ latest appeal, the Court helped ensure that this case will soon reach a final resolution.”

The county counsel and city attorneys who brought the case were assisted by Motley Rice, along with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP; Law Office of Peter Earle; and Mary Alexander and Associates.

Read more on the California Court of Appeals’ November 2017 decision.

Read Santa Clara County’s press release about the decision.

Read the City of Oakland’s press release about the decision.

Read San Francisco’s press release about the decision.

Read the City of San Diego's press release about the decision.

Read more about the historic litigation.