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Archive for Sunday, November 24, 2002

Judge advances lead paint lawsuit

November 24, 2002

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— A judge's ruling Friday pushed forward the city's effort to collect millions of dollars in damages from lead paint contamination.

In an 88-page ruling, St. Louis Circuit Judge Margaret Neill rejected most of the paint manufacturers' reasons why the suit should be dismissed. She threw out one of the city's two claims for restitution and a claim for indemnity. No trial date was set.

Neill's ruling allows the city to continue with what it says is an effort to make the city's housing lead-safe and to help families with medical needs resulting from lead contamination. More than 31 percent of St. Louis children under 6 had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2000, one of the highest rates in the country.

Neill's ruling was in response to a request by seven paint makers that the city's suit be dismissed. Print makers in the suit are American Cyanimid Co., Atlantic Richfield Co., Du Pont & Co., Glidden Co., NL Industries Inc., SCM Corp. and Sherwin-Williams Co.

Dozens of lawsuits over lead paint have been filed nationwide in recent years, but Hageman said none had resulted in a verdict.

The city's lawsuit contends that paint manufacturers intentionally, fraudulently or negligently misrepresented or failed to disclose the hazardous nature of lead and lead products.

Lead poisoning has been associated with many health problems, including learning disabilities.

Because lead paint was not banned from interiors until 1978, many homes still have it.

Neill noted in her order that the city claims that lead paint has resulted in harm to the public health and produced "widespread" costs to the city. Estimates for fixing the problem run as high as $40 million for St. Louis alone.

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