Supreme Court lets stand California ruling holding lead paint makers liable for $400-million cleanup cost

The Supreme Court on Monday dealt a defeat to business groups in a closely watched California case, rejecting appeals of a ruling that requires former makers of lead paint to pay $400 million or more to clean up old homes.

Business lawyers said they fear the decision will give a green light to other suits seeking to hold manufacturers liable for damage inflicted on the public, including the opioid crisis and climate change.

“The decision ... poses an enormous risk to everyone who has ever done business in California, as it opens the door to potentially unbounded suits targeting manufacturers of products sold decades ago,” wrote former U.S. Solicitor Gen. Paul Clement in appeal on behalf of ConAgra Grocery Products. The food company was held liable because it had acquired a firm that once sold lead paint.

The justices had considered the appeals in the lead paint cases in late September and again last Friday, the first weekly conferences to include Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It takes a vote of four justices to hear an appeal. On Monday, the court issued a brief order saying it would not hear ConAgra vs. California or Sherwin-Williams vs. California.

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