Tort Law/Public Nuisance

Second Lead-Paint Suit Fails


State supreme courts handed paint manufacturers two victories this week in lawsuits seeking cleanup costs for lead paint used before it was banned as a health hazard in 1978.

Today the New Jersey Supreme Court dismissed a public nuisance suit filed against lead paint makers by 26 towns and counties, the Associated Press reports.

Plaintiffs’ complaints “aim wide” of the limits of public nuisance theory, the court said in In Re Lead Paint Litigation, No. A-73-05.

“The suggestion that plaintiffs can proceed against these defendants on a public nuisance theory would stretch the theory to the point of creating strict liability to be imposed on manufacturers of ordinary consumer products which, although legal when sold, and although sold no more recently than a quarter of a century ago, have become dangerous through deterioration and poor maintenance by the purchasers,” the court said.

Fidelma L. Fitzpatrick, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told AP they were considering whether to ask the court to reconsider its decision. The opinion “allowed the companies that profited from lead paint to turn their back on the children of New Jersey and the crisis that they created,” Fitzpatrick said.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to allow the city of St. Louis to sue lead paint makers for public nuisance using a market-share theory.

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