This blog post has been re-published with permission from the blog of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and it appears in the September issue of Apartment Age.
By Maryann Marino, Southern California Regional Director
California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
California public health officials call the state’s program dealing with lead paint “a public health success.” Despite this fact, Los Angeles County – alongside nine other California cities and counties – teamed up with contingency-fee trial lawyers to sue paint manufacturers. The verdict in that case will give millions of dollars to the lawyers, and could have a huge impact on the value of residential property throughout California.
In the verdict, the judge declared that any privately-owned residential building in the ten cities and counties containing any lead paint is a public health hazard. This verdict labels all residential buildings constructed before 1981 in these jurisdictions as a “public nuisance,” and that label will remain until a property is inspected and any lead paint is removed.
With a stroke of a pen, a single judge has put all pre-1981 residential buildings in limbo, creating tremendous uncertainty about the value of millions of homes and raising serious questions about liabilities when residential buildings are appraised, rented, or sold. While this case is under appeal in the Sixth District Court of Appeals, it is clear who will win and who will pay the price if the verdict stands. The lawyers will walk away with an enormous paycheck, and the victims of this misguided litigation will be California homeowners, both landlords and owners.
California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) has long fought the abuse of our lawsuit system. CALA believes the courts should be used for justice, not greed.
In this case, greedy trial lawyers are using a dubious legal argument – alleging that the mere presence of lead paint constitutes a “public nuisance” – in an effort to cash in. Despite the fact that this exact argument has failed in seven other jurisdictions, they have hit the jackpot this time, and homeowners and apartment owners throughout California will suffer the consequences.