California Court of Appeal Affirms Trial Ruling that Lead Paint Manufacturers are Liable for Causing Public Nuisance

On November 14, 2017, the California Sixth District Court of Appeal affirmed in principal part a groundbreaking trial court ruling that three paint manufacturers – Conagra Grocery Products Company, NL Industries, Inc., and Sherwin-Williams Company – had created a “public nuisance” by marketing lead paint for interior residential use throughout the first half of the 20th century, despite having actual knowledge that exposure to lead resulted in critical health dangers, especially to children.  The trial court’s remedial order required the three companies to contribute $1.15 billion to an abatement fund that will be used to identify and clean up lead paint hazards in older-stock housing in counties across California.  The companies challenged that ruling on numerous grounds under state and federal law, which were almost uniformly rejected by the Court of Appeal in its 137-page decision.  Most notably, the Court of Appeal concluded that there was substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s finding that the lead paint companies knew of the hazards of using lead paint on housing interiors at the time that they marketed lead paint for that purpose.

Although the Court of Appeal narrowed the scope of the trial court’s ruling in one respect, ruling that the companies were liable only for housing built before 1951, most of the housing at issue was built before that date.

The Court of Appeal’s decision can be found here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP acted as Special Appellate Counsel on the appeal, working in conjunction with lead trial and appellate counsel from the Santa Clara County Counsel’s office.