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Manufacturers of lead house paint sued by cities

A coalition of California cities and counties has filed a lawsuit against lead paint manufacturers for damages caused by flaking paint found in many old buildings. The plaintiffs include Los Angeles and Santa Clara Counties and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego. The suit seeks to have the manufacturers inspect over 3 million California homes and remove any potentially hazardous lead paint, which would cost approximately $1 billion.

The industry has defended itself vigorously against the products liability lawsuit, hiring top law firms to defend itself from claims that it sold consumers an unsafe product. Many previous lawsuits of this type have been unsuccessful, due to the difficulty of plaintiffs proving that lead paint was the cause of their injury, and of proving which company manufactured the paint. The court has allowed this particular lawsuit to go to court under California's public nuisance law.

The defendants argue that the companies weren't aware that lead was harmful back when they promoted the paint, and that California already has a system in place for preventing lead poisoning. However, attorneys from the plaintiffs have produced articles and other documents from as early as 1900 outlining the dangers of lead. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 525,000 children are diagnosed with dangerous levels of lead in their blood annually.

In order for a products liability claim to be successful, the plaintiff must prove that the product was defective or unsafe when it left the defendant's control, and that the plaintiff was harmed as a result. Anyone harmed by a defective or unsafe product has the right to recover monetary damages for lost wages, medical bills, and any disability incurred.

Source: Huffington Post, "Lead Paint Makers Could Face The Same Fate as Big Tobacco," Lynne Peeples, Aug. 3, 2013

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