A state appellate court in Los Angeles reinstated a lawsuit Friday by California cities and counties that seeks to force eight paint manufacturers to clean up lead paint used in low-income housing and government buildings.
The reinstatement follows a victory at trial last week by the state of Rhode Island, which accused some of the same manufacturers of helping to create a significant public health crisis by making and selling lead-based paint.
That landmark verdict, which could force the companies to pay millions of dollars in cleanup costs and mitigation, called for the defendants to clean up the paint.
The Rhode Island jury sided with prosecutors who accused makers of covering up the risk of lead paint, especially to children. That lawsuit, filed in 1999, was the first by a state to hold the paint industry responsible.
The California lawsuit, filed in 2000 in Santa Clara County, makes similar claims and names every California city and county as a plaintiff.
"Most of this [hazard] comes in low-income, city-subsidized housing projects, all the old municipal buildings, courthouses, city halls, that have lead paint in them," said attorney Joe Cotchett, who represents Santa Clara County. "In low-cost housing, lead paint chips off the wall and children ingest it."
The companies named in the lawsuit were affiliated with Millennium Chemicals, Atlantic Richfield Co., American Cyanamid Co., Conagra Grocery Products Co., E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., O'Brien Corp., Glidden Co. and Sherwin-Williams Co. The case, filed as a class action on behalf of public entities across the state, had been dismissed by a lower court before trial.
Representatives from the companies could not be reached for comment late Friday, except for Millennium, which had no comment.