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New York State Assembly Passes Bill Disallowing the Exclusion of Coverage for Damages in Lead-Based Paint Cases

By Thomas P. Giuffra

In an important vote in the state Assembly, NY legislators have passed a bill that would not allow insurance companies to deny coverage or exclude coverage for damages related to lead-based paint illnesses.  The bill’s passage is now on the way to the Governor for signature.  The legislative victory has drawn little attention from the press in spite of the fact thousands of people, including children, have suffered serious injuries as a result of being exposed to lead in paint.

Earlier this year, The 1st Department of the New York Appellate Division affirmed a decision that found Lloyd’s of London and other insurers liable for NL Industries’ claim. The appellate panel rejected the insurers’ argument that the award was excluded from coverage because the paint manufacturer promoted the use of lead paint despite knowing that it posed a serious risk.

Santa Clara County filed a lawsuit in 2000 against NL Industries, ConAgra Grocery Products Co. and Sherwin-Williams Co. under the California’s public nuisance law. Nine other California cities and counties joined the action, which sought to hold manufacturers responsible for promoting lead paint for use in homes despite their knowledge that the product was highly toxic.

NL was a member of the Lead Industries Association, a trade group that sponsored an advertising campaign in the 1930s that promoted the use of white lead carbonate pigment in paint. At the time, it was already widely known that lead dust is poisonous. In fact, NL’s representative was present when LIA’s board of directors in 1930 discussed an article in the U.S. Daily that reported babies were contracting lead poisoning from chewing paint from toys, cradles and woodwork more frequently than previously thought.

After a six-week trial, the Santa Clara County Superior Court ordered the three companies to pay $1.1 billion into a lead paint abatement fund. The 6th District Court of Appeal amended the ruling to require the companies to pay for abatement of only homes built before 1951, reducing the abatement fund amount to $409 million.

The decision was appealed but California’s highest court refused to hear the case.

If you or a loved one have been injured by exposure to lead-based paint, contact us for a free initial consultation.  Our firm has represented victims of lead poisoning in court and brought them justice. 

Picture of Thomas P. Giuffra, Partner

Thomas P. Giuffra, Partner

Thomas specializes in the litigation and trial of significant civil sexual assault, medical malpractice, personal injury, mass tort, and product liability actions. His innovative approach has led to 20 verdicts and numerous settlements in excess of one million dollars on behalf of his clients, including a recent landmark verdict for $58 Million. He has been recognized as "outstanding in the field of advocacy" nationally and internationally.

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