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July 15, 2013

Public Nuisance Litigation Continues in CA

A group of California cities and counties is suing the lead paint industry, demanding that the companies pay nearly $1 billion in clean up costs.   Similar public nuisance suits have failed in seven other states reports the American Lawyer:

Many other cities and towns — including Milwaukee; Chicago; St. Louis; Toledo, Ohio; and a swath of towns in New Jersey — also filed suit against former manufacturers of lead paint. But none was successful. Appeals courts variously found that the public nuisance claim couldn’t apply to a manufacturer that didn’t control its product’s use or maintenance after sale, or that the cities and counties lacked standing.

Trial lawyers, flush with cash from asbestos and tobacco litigation, tried to find their next cash cow by engineering a “public nuisance” theory of liability, but judges and juries haven’t acquiesced, and every case has either been dismissed or withdrawn.

The California litigation is the single remaining claim and the final crack at collect on a clearly misguided theory that has been universally rejected elsewhere.

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