The Healthy Homes and Schools Act, a state ballot initiative still in need of signatures, would establish a $2 billion bond to remove lead dangers from homes, apartments, schools and senior citizen housing.
Lead paint is a substantial risk, particularly to young children. A pediatrician with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health testified in one lawsuit that of all the environmental health problems facing children, lead was "No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8."
However, how this measure has come about offers a look into how far paint companies will go to avoid liability for exposing millions of children to their dangerous compounds.
Dangers of Lead Paint to Children in California
Lead can cause nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage and developmental delays. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lead paint in 1977. California lawmakers have passed a host of legislation aimed at getting property owners to clean up the dangers, including the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Acts of 1986 and 1989; and the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of 1991.
Still, as of 2018, the government estimates there are 37 million homes and apartments with lead paint in the United States. Peeling lead paint is expensive to remove and often found in older, low-income housing.
Liability for Lead Paint in California
While the law already provides significant protections for tenants, it's often up to tenants to force removal and cleanup. Too often, this does not happen until a child is diagnosed with lead contamination. Such cases may involve either real estate law or a premises liability claim for dangerous property conditions.
Recently, a column by Julian Canete in the Sacramento Bee alleges the measure is being pushed by trial lawyers and will hurt low-income families who've "achieved the American dream of homeownership," as he put it. Canete is executive director of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.
But the real problem is with the paint companies. Faced with pending liability, they have decided it will be cheaper to change the law and push liability onto the backs of a taxpayer-supported cleanup fund.
An earlier column by Dan Morain reports the act is in response to a ruling by a California Court of Appeals, declaring lead in thousands of homes built before 1980 a public nuisance. That ruling was in response to a decade-old lawsuit by 10 California jurisdictions, including Alameda, Santa Clara, San Diego and Los Angeles counties, and San Francisco and Oakland, which sought to hold several corporations responsible for producing lead based paint commonly installed in houses decades ago.
Potentially on the hook for billions in remediation costs, the companies put $2 million in a campaign account called Californians for Safe and Affordable Housing, seeking a ballot initiative to establish a taxpayer-supported fund for cleanup.
These can be complex cases often involving multiple residents of an apartment building or complex. Seeking a law firm experienced in both real estate law and premises liability claims is the best bet when it comes to protecting the health and safety of you and your family.