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Congratulations to attorney Fidelma Fitzpatrick and the entire plaintiffs’ team on today’s major victory.

The fight against lead paint has been ongoing for decades. It started when the government banned lead paint in homes in the 1970s, and it has continued through litigation that began in 2000. Today, a move by the U.S. Supreme Court is a big win for plaintiffs who say several companies created a “public nuisance” by concealing serious lead paint hazards.

Sherwin-Williams and ConAgra recently challenged a California court ruling that put them on the hook for at least $400 million in lead abatement in old California homes. The companies petitioned the Supreme Court in February to overturn the public nuisance judgement after the state court denied a rehearing. The Supreme Court rejected their appeals, leaving in place the 2017 ruling by the lower court.

“The risks associated with lead paint are clear and have been clear for a long time,” Fitzpatrick, who served as lead trial counsel for plaintiffs in the 2013 trial, said earlier this year. “The longer the defendants delay taking necessary measures to fund abatement so that toxic paint can be safely removed from California homes, the more children will be at risk every day of neurological damage and other effects of lead poisoning and exposure. By refusing to consider the defendants’ latest appeal, the Court helped ensure that this case will soon reach a final resolution.”

The November 2017 ruling affirmed the majority of Judge James Kleinberg’s 2014 ruling, which found three companies had created a public nuisance by promoting lead paint for interior residential use with knowledge of its danger to children. The ruling agreed that an abatement funded by the defendants would alleviate public harm by clearing toxic paint from homes constructed before 1951. Read more on the California Court of Appeals’ November 2017 decision here.

The decision could set a precedent for cases to come, according to an LA Times article. Basing the ruling on the “public nuisance” doctrine could give rise to other lawsuits seeking to hold manufacturers liable for public damage such as the opioid crisis and climate change.

“Finally, the Defendants’ appeals have been exhausted and a comprehensive and meaningful plan can be implemented to remove toxic lead paint from homes in California,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have been honored to work with the 10 cities and states that have been so committed to seeing these companies held accountable. This is a huge victory for children and their families who have been plagued by hazardous lead paint in their homes.”

The cases are ConAgra Grocery Products Co. et al. v. People of the State of California, case #18-84, and The Sherwin-Williams Co. v. The People of California, case# 18-86.

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