A state court judge in California on Tuesday ordered Sherwin-Williams Company, NL Industries Inc. and ConAgra Grocery Products to pay $1.15 billion to help clean up lead paint in millions of homes in nine major cities and municipalities across the state.
Santa Clara County Judge James Kleinberg originally ruled against the companies in a proposed decision issued last month. Tuesday’s final decision in the long-running public nuisance litigation ups the award against the companies by $50 million over the earlier ruling.
The verdict came after a 13-year legal battle. If the ruling stands up on appeal, it would be the first government win in a spate of public nuisance lawsuits across the country against the makers of lead paint, which was banned for use in homes in 1978.
Motley Rice’s Fidelma Fitzpatrick and Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy’s Nancy Fineman were among the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs. Neither was immediately available to comment. (We talked to Fitzpatrick in December for a Lit Daily Q&A on the landmark win.)
Bonnie Campbell, a spokeswoman for the defendants, said in an emailed statement that the companies plan to appeal. “This ruling is judicial overreach that improperly takes over the role of the legislature,” she said. “It creates a massive new public works project that rewards landlords who do not comply with the law.”
At trial, the defense line-up included Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for ConAgra, Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott for NL Industries, and Jones Day for Sherwin-Williams.
Judge Kleinberg previously dismissed claims against two other companies, ARCO and DuPont. They were represented by counsel from Arnold & Porter and Glynn & Finley, respectively.
Ross Todd is a senior reporter with The Litigation Daily, a Recorder affiliate.