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June 23, 2006

Must Paint Manufacturers Get the Lead Out?

The California Supreme Court has refused to review a ruling by the state's court of appeal that reinstated public nuisance, strict liability, negligence and fraud claims in a suit brought in 2000 by several Bay Area cities, counties and public agencies.  The suit seeks to make lead paint manufacturers liable for the costs of abatement both inside and outside countless public and private buildings at a cost that may amount to billions of dollars. 

The trial court had granted the manufacturers' motion for summary judgment in 2003.  But the court of appeal ruled that the manufacturers could be held liable because of their "affirmative promotion of lead paint for interior use, not their mere manufacture and distribution."  The intemediate appellate court also ruled that the three-year statute of limitations did not begin to run until 1998 when scientific studies showed that even low levels of exposure could cause serious harm. 

The defendants argue that property owners, not paint manufacturers, are responsible for maintaining properties in a lead-safe condition given what they knew or should have known about the hazards of lead paint.  They also that the ruling permits "unfettered extension of the . . . public nuisance . . . cause of action" to any product sold lawfully but which a public entity now seeks to have declared a nuisance.  See the story by Mike McKee in The Recorder.

JDP

June 23, 2006 | Permalink

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