SAN JOSE -- A billion-dollar showdown between 10 California cities and counties and the powerful lead-paint industry winds to a close Monday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Concluding a trial that began in July, lawyers for the local governments will make their final case to a San Jose judge that paint manufacturers deliberately sold a hazardous product spread through California homes for generations -- and should now clean up their mess.
Attorneys for the industry will close their case with counter-arguments that lead paint no longer poses a meaningful public-health threat and that any cleanup effort would do more harm than good.
Armed with a host of expert testimony and thousands of pages of documents, Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg is expected to take the feud under consideration and issue a decision sometime in the next three months. The trial was conducted without a jury.
Led by Santa Clara County, local governments sued the industry in 2000, alleging paint manufacturers knew of the dangers of lead paint as early as the late 1890s and yet peddled it to consumers until the late 1970s. Alameda, Monterey, San Mateo and San Francisco are among the other counties pushing the claims.
The government outlawed lead paint in 1978, but it remains in many homes built before that time, particularly in low-income neighborhoods where families are less likely to be aware of the threat. There are an estimated 5 million homes in the 10 local jurisdictions suing the industry that require lead-paint removal, according to government lawyers.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.