There have been several high profile lawsuits that have been filed within the past several years against the lead industry. The general theme of these lawsuits has concerned lead paint that is found in many homes and workplaces throughout the United States. You might still have lead paint in your house.
Suits have been filed in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and in other places. Generally, the Plaintiffs sue the companies that made lead paint and others involved in the production scheme alleging that they knew or should have known that the lead in the paint was dangerous if it was in some manner consumed or otherwise absorbed by people. Children seem to be particularly at risk.
If you have been watching the litigation against the tobacco companies, you will see a connection to what was done in the tobacco litigation and what the lawyers have attempted thus far to do in the lead cases. The only difference is that so far the lead cases are dropping like a lead balloon.
In early November a New Jersey Court dismissed a lead suit filed against the lead industry by two dozen municipalities. They were seeking to have lead removed from homes that were built before lead paint was prohibited.
The Judge ruled that it should be up to the municipalities to enforce State and Local laws that ensure that buildings are in safe condition. That lawsuit was first filed by Newark, New Jersey, an urban city with many houses that either do or once did contain lead. Other municipalities followed after Newark started the litigation.
Perhaps the most publicized lead lawsuit was filed by the Rhode Island Attorney General. There, Rhode Island attempted to hold eight lead paint manufacturers responsible for lead poisoning of Rhode Island children. Rhode Island alleged that lead paint represented a public nuisance.
In late October, a mistrial was declared in the Rhode Island case. According to published reports, the jury reported that it was deadlocked after four days of deliberations. The trial had lasted seven weeks.
Notwithstanding these failures, Chicago has just recently announced that it filed suit against paint companies and the lead industry. In that litigation, Chicago asserts that lead contained in lead paint constitutes a public nuisance and is an unreasonable health and safety threat to Chicago's children. Some Federal reports suggest that perhaps 40% of American homes still contain lead paint. I believe that this includes paint which has subsequently been painted over with non-lead containing paint. However, it is still significant that many homes in this country contain lead paint.
It is useful to recall that it took many, many years for litigation against the tobacco industry to have any success. In fact, for decades the tobacco industry refused to acknowledge that there was a link between the use of cigarettes and documented illness.
It was only after many suits had failed that the tide turned and some success was realized. As you recall, ultimately the attorneys general from many states got involved in a large scale national lawsuit that resulted in what has become known as the "tobacco settlement". In that settlement, cigarette companies are now engaged in education campaigns to prevent children from beginning to smoke and a large monetary pool was established for use by the states.
The comparison between the case against the tobacco companies and the lead companies might suggest that if Plaintiffs continue they conceivably will ultimately prevail. Plaintiffs assert that documents show that the lead paint companies and others involved in the stream of commerce knew that there was a possible connection between exposure to lead paint and severe resulting illness.
Some of the Plaintiffs allege that these companies had this information but did not disclose it. Note that these are allegations and I personally do not know if they are true. What is true is that lead exposure is a substantial national problem. Children are most prone to becoming ill following exposure to lead paint. And the problem does not know socio economic bounds. It is a problem found everywhere.
Since there is no cure, no way to de-lead one's blood, the key is to avoid this exposure. And if in fact an industry exists that knew about this problem but allowed practices to continue which hurt our children, if that is true, then it is logical that those responsible should have to pay whatever costs it takes to correct these problems and compensate those who have been harmed.