Last month Sherwin Williams Co., NL Industries Inc., and ConAgra Grocery Products LLC, were ordered to pay $1.1 billion, yes billion dollars, for the lead abatement, decontamination and containment of the lead paint they sold to millions of people throughout 10 cities and counties in California. The public nuisance lawsuit was tried before Superior Court Judge James Klienberg in San Jose, California. *As of 1-8-14 this fine was increased by $50 million.
This was not the first time local governments have tried to sue these entities, however this is the first time these companies have lost, thus setting a major precedent for the lead paint and environmental industries, if not successfully appealed.
Sherwin Williams and the other manufacturer’s main argument held that the lead paint in these homes was not the only, or even main culprit causing the poisoning of these children. Lead paint is found on bridges and roads. Many people still use lead bullets while hunting. Lead can be found in cosmetics and toys. Additionally, leaded gasoline that was commonly used has contaminated soil throughout the country. There was one point in particular that the manufacturers brought up that we did found quite interesting. If they are forced to pay this judgement, this essentially eliminates any responsibility or liability held by landlords, owners and property managers who are typically responsible for the maintenance and care of the paint on a property.
The defendants’ argument did not stand. It was sighted that the manufacturers knew the harmful effects of their products as early as 1930 but tried to dismiss and hide these claims. Lead paint was not banned for residential use until 1978 and today thousands of children continue to be poisoned by lead paint. Residents of the awarded cities and counties within California are excited at the potential of improving the health of millions through lead abatement.
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