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Lead paint was officially banned in 1978, but continues to live on in millions of homes. It remains the single biggest contributor to lead poisoning in children, causing developmental delays, learning difficulties, deafness, and even seizures.
Low-income neighborhoods are particularly rife with lead paint, almost 40 years later. "Lead paint is prevalent in Oakland homes and disproportionately impacts African-American, Hispanic, Asian and other communities of color and low-income communities," according to Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker.
Finally, after decades of litigation, the State of California has settled claims against paint-makers Sherwin-Williams, ConAgra Grocery Products Company, and NL Industries for $305 million.
"Today's settlement holds former manufacturers of lead paint responsible for the harm they have caused to generations of California’s children," said Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams. "We have fought to hold these companies accountable for nearly 20 years, and will finally have needed funds to devote to protecting our children from lead poisoning." Santa Clara, along with other counties and cities including San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego, claimed that paint manufacturers marketed and sold lead-based paint for years despite knowing for years that it was dangerous to children.
The settlement, which will be paid in six annual $75 million installments, will allow local governments to mitigate lead poisoning dangers still present in older residences. Much of the money will go to a home clean-up program, free for property owners, to hopefully prevent thousands of new lead exposure cases. But how exactly how many residences may qualify for remediation remains to be seen.
Over 10,000 California children tested positive for lead poisoning in 2014, according to the Mercury News, with paint believed to be the main culprit. The three defendants in this case were found liable for knowingly marketing toxic lead-based paint in a 2013 trial, but the ruling was limited on appeal to apply only to homes built before 1951.
"This litigation, which started nearly 20 years ago, challenged the companies' legal advertising of lead-based paints over a century ago when lead-based paints were the 'gold standard' and specified for use by the federal government, as well as state and local governments across the country," Sherwin-Williams contended in a statement released after the settlement. "While Sherwin-Williams continues to believe that this litigation was unfair, unwarranted and unwise, the resolution announced today will enable all parties to move forward and is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders."
While the manufacturers admitted no fault as part of the settlement, it remains one of the few successful pieces of litigation against lead paint makers based on public nuisance liability. To learn more about toxic paint liability or to file a lead paint-based legal claim, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney.