Jul 152013

From the San Jose Mercury News:

“Lead poisoning has been the longest-running epidemic in American pediatric history, and is a silent, ongoing tragedy,” David Rosner, a Columbia University professor who will be an expert witness for the governments, said in an email exchange.

Led by Santa Clara County, local governments sued the industry in 2000, alleging paint manufacturers knew of the dangers of lead paint as early as the late 1890s and yet peddled it to consumers without warning for decades. Alameda, Monterey, San Mateo and San Francisco counties are among the players in the case, as well as the cities of Oakland and San Diego and large counties such as Los Angeles.

Public officials will urge Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg, who is hearing the case without a jury, to find five paint manufacturers, including Atlantic Richfield, NL Industries and Sherwin-Williams, liable and order them to remove lead paint from an estimated 5 million homes in the 10 counties — at a cost of about $1 billion.

“It’s all about fixing the problem,” said Joseph Cotchett, a prominent Burlingame lawyer representing the counties.

Unlike cases involving individuals who sue over health hazards, which can be difficult to prove against an entire industry, California officials have alleged the paint makers violated the state’s public nuisance laws. Lead paint, they argue, has created “a substantial and unreasonable injury” to anyone exposed in an older home.

The case has dragged on for years, twice bouncing up through the appeals courts, which have allowed it go forward over the paint manufacturers’ objections.