Tuesday, October 15, 2013

California Lead Lawsuit Offers Opinions On Paint Responsibility and Abatement

DuPont Paint
Lead paint continues to cause issues
photo credit

The California lead paint lawsuit we mentioned in a previous post is coming a close. The five represented paint companies--NL Industries Inc; Dupont; ConAgra Grocery Products LLC; Sherwin-Williams Company; and Atlantic Richfield Co.-- presented closing arguments against a public-nuisance lawsuit by 10 California cities and counties seeking more than $1 billion to replace or contain lead paint in millions of homes.

As providers of lead abatement certification classes, GreenEDU knows the harms of lead-based paint in buildings. Abatement refers to any measure or set of measures designed to permanently eliminate lead-based paint hazards, including removal, encapsulation, and replacement. Often, abatement projects will be conducted in response to state or local abatement orders. It is required that anyone performing abatement activities is certified and registered with the EPA.

We offer these classes because even in small doses, lead is most dangerous to children. When lead is introduced to a child's body, the side effects can include:
  • Poor muscle and bone development
  • ›Coordination problems
  • Speech and language problems
  • ›Deafness
  • Mental Retardation
  • Coma
  • Death
In this case, the plaintiffs want to hold these companies accountable for their insertion of lead into their paints. As a result of the lead, there are numerous cases of lead poisoning and defects in children in California. This case was previously thrown out, but was reinstated in 2006 after winning an appeal. If the judges rule in favor of the plaintiffs, it will be a huge step in the lead abatement discussion. In previous cases, New York, New Jersey, and Wisconsin courts have sided with the paint companies, stating they were not responsible for the nuisance of lead paint produced years ago.

As a core piece of evidence in the case, the prosecution holds a document from 1937 entitled “Lead Poisoning, Report of Conference Physicians and Surgeons of Member Companies.” The authors were physicians who were employed by several paint companies and learned of the dangers of lead paint. The physicians were instructed to not repeat this information. The legal team for the prosecution stated, “They knew in the 1930s that lead poisoning of children was happening and they tried to conceal it.”

Don Scott, a member of the legal defense team for NL Industries, attempted to show that the company did not know about the risks of including lead in their paint during the first half of the 20th century. He supported his case with studies from medical doctors of the time.

Superior Court Judge, James Kleinberg, of San Jose, California, challenged the defense stating that England had already banned the paint as a result of harm to children in the early 1900s and American paint company, DuPont, had an advertisement in 1918 showing they did not put lead into their paint.

“Is it your position that if the American doctors that you cite say X, that’s the end of the issue, and that the court should not be concerned with these other pieces of evidence that are undisputed?” Kleinberg asked. “I am troubled by the idea that because American doctors, fine people I’m sure they were, say XYZ that’s the end of the inquiry.”

The defense team weakly replied, stating that there was no real evidence or case study against the use of the paint at that time.

For more information on the case, please visit the Bloomberg article.
To sign up for a Lead Abatement course, please follow the link or call Green Education Services at 646-564-3546

The case is California v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 1-00-CV-788657, California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).