Lead Paint Leaders No Longer Believed to be Next Wave of Toxic Tort Defendants

Lead paint has been recognized as a dangerous substance that can cause serious injury by the public for some time now. While many modern day lead paint stories come from events like dangerous toy recalls, ten California public agencies, including the city of San Francisco, are making headlines this week in their ongoing battle against major lead paint manufacturers. While lead paint suits may have at one time thought to have been the wave in toxic tort litigation, the recent suits seems to suggest otherwise.

Legalnewsline.com reports that the suit, The People of California v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et. al., is making headlines this week as expert witness testimony is being heard in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Though the suit was filed 13 years ago, the battle is fresh, and, despite urgings from the judge, no settlement appears to be on the horizon. So far, Dr. Gerald Markowitz, an expert historian and professor from the City University of New York, has testified that deregulation in laws permitted paint companies such as Atlantic Richfield Company (also known as “ARCO”) to mix lead paint for tens of years, even though they were aware that there were health hazards associated with it.

Despite this testimony, and other equally as strong evidence, success against the major lead manufacturers is far from a slam dunk. According to Publicintergrity.org, the lead paint industry has successfully defended against approximately 50 suits by various plaintiffs, including states, counties, school districts and states over the last two-and-a-half decades.

Individuals have also brought suit against poison paint giants, which have also been largely unsuccessful. For example, in the 1987 case Santiago v. Sherwin-Williams Company, a judge threw out a case in which the plaintiff alleged she had suffered severe lead poisoning from lead paint in her home, leaving her injured for the rest of her life. She had lived in an apartment covered in lead paint since she was an infant, and allegedly ingested lead paint from the walls of the home. At one-year-old, Ms. Santiago was diagnosed with lead poisoning and later had to undergo chelation therapy to help her excrete the lead elements. She also developed hyperactivity-attention disorder and difficulties with her motor skills, which was allegedly linked to the ingestion of lead paint. Ultimately, Ms. Santiago’s case failed, and failed again on appeal.

Despite all of the failed attempts to hold the lead paint industry responsible, a lawsuit brought by Rhode Island was successful. In 2005, paint manufacturer DuPont settled with Rhode Island in the amount of $12.5 million dollars after the state brought claims against it and other industry leaders for public nuisance. Rhode Island was successful again in 2006, when it won a $2.4 billion dollar award at trial against the remaining defendants. Plaintiffs in the current suit are seeking lead paint manufacturers to pay for the removal of lead paint from homes in their jurisdictions.

Whether the plaintiffs will prevail on their claims against the lead paint giants remains to be seen. However, if you or a loved one has been injured by a toxic substance, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced attorney. The attorneys at Brod Law Firm have successfully brought toxic tort cases and helped their clients get the compensation they deserve for their injuries.

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