Paint Companies Use Scare Tactics on Californians to Cover Own Wrongdoing – MARCH 2018

Paint manufacturers that lost a recent court ruling are using scare tactics to convince homeowners they will be held criminally liable if their homes contain lead-based paint, according to C.A.R.

A recent California court ruling against paint manufacturers will have little to no effect on individual homeowners whose properties contain interior lead-based paint. Instead, the court found that the paint companies created a public nuisance by promoting lead-based paint for interior residential use. The ruling requires the paint companies to pay the cost of abating lead-based paint in hundreds of thousands of homes located in 10 California counties and cities. The precise amount that the companies will be required to pay is still being calculated, but the companies will likely be liable for hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars of remediation expenses.

The ruling declared the overall danger created by lead based paint in residential housing to be a public nuisance but did not designate individual homes containing lead-based paint as public nuisances. The Court found the paint companies, and not individual homeowners, liable for the creation of the nuisance.

Since 1992, federal law has required sellers, landlords, and real estate agents to provide certain disclosures of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in a transaction for a sale or lease of housing built prior to 1978.

According to C.A.R. President Steve White, “Current homeowners and home sellers need not remove or remediate lead-based paint prior to sale but should educate themselves if they choose to do so. Paint companies are attempting to qualify an initiative on the November ballot to absolve themselves of liability by shifting the burden of the expensive remediation costs onto the backs of California taxpayers, when taxpayers, in fact, are the victims. This is an appalling abuse of the initiative system to try to avoid reparations.”

In People v. ConAgra, the trial court found in 2013 that lead-based paint found in homes built before 1981 was a public nuisance and ordered ConAgra Grocery Products Co., NL Industries, and Sherwin-Williams Co. to pay $1.15 billion for the costs of inspecting more than 3.5 million California homes and apartments built before 1981. The paint companies appealed, and the California Sixth District Court of Appeals upheld most of the ruling last November, affirming the judgement against the paint companies with regard to homes built before 1951. Last month, the Supreme Court in California declined to review the Appeals Court ruling.

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