By Joel Rosenblatt and Jack Kaskey, BLOOMBERG NEWS
Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and ConAgra Grocery Products LLC were ordered by a judge to pay $1.1 billion to replace or contain lead paint in millions of homes after losing a public-nuisance lawsuit brought by 10 California cities and counties.
Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg in San Jose, California, yesterday tentatively ruled against the companies after a non-jury trial that lasted about five weeks. Two other defendants, Atlantic Richfield Co., a Los Angeles-based unit of BP Plc, and Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont Co., won dismissal of the claims against them.
The local governments that sued, including Los Angeles County and the cities of San Diego and San Francisco, broke the companies’ streak of victories in similar suits in seven other states. Los Angeles County will get $605 million for lead abatement in the ruling.
Kleinberg rejected the manufacturers’ arguments that paint was “not the whole problem,” and that alternate sources of lead contribute to poisoning.
“Consistent with their arguments throughout the trial the defendants rely on statistics and percentages,” Kleinberg wrote. “When translated into the lives of children that is not a persuasive position. The court is convinced there are thousands of California children in the jurisdictions whose lives can be improved, if not saved through a lead abatement plan.” Read More