SAN FRANCISCO, April 18, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mary Alexander, San Francisco victims' rights attorney, co-lead counsel of a case that has won a $1.15 billion verdict against the world's largest paint companies to pay for the effects of lead paint on thousands of California children, has just been named San Francisco Trial Lawyer of the Year, together with her other co-counsels and legal team in the case. The honor was bestowed by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association and its Public Justice Case Evaluation Committee. The dinner honoring Alexander and her colleagues was held Thursday night at the Nikko Hotel. Members of the winning legal team also honored were Joseph Cotchett, Nancy Fineman and Brian Schnarr. The criteria selection for the award emphasized a case's impact and size, establishment of precedent, and time involved in litigating.
On April 4, Alexander announced that a state Judge in Santa Clara County, California, has issued a final amended judgment, denying a new trial in a historic lead paint case affecting California children, and ordering top lead paint companies including Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries, and ConAgra to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to be used to remove the lead potentially dangerous to children in hundreds of thousands of homes in ten cities and counties in California. Alexander stated that the verdict came after 14 years of litigation and 5 weeks of trial. The final judgment comes after two appeals, one of which was a ruling by the California Supreme Court.
Judge James P. Kleinberg said that lead in paint, for which there is no safe level of exposure for children, results in "thousands of children presently and potentially victimized by this chemical." The counties are San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Monterey, Solano, Ventura, and the cities are Oakland and San Diego.
Mary Alexander, an attorney who tried the case for the cities and counties said, "This verdict will prevent lead poisoning of children from paint in their homes. It is a great victory for the people of California." She added, "This decision holds the companies accountable for promoting and selling lead paint for use in homes despite knowing, as far back as the 1890's, that it was highly toxic, especially to young children. This landmark decision establishes important legal precedents and recognizes the manufacturers must be held responsible and pay to clean up the hazard they created in homes," she said.
The Judge ordered Sherwin-Williams, ConAgra and NL Industries, formerly known as the National Lead Co., to pay $1.15 billion to establish a fund that the state will administer to remove lead paint from the homes in the 10 cities and counties. There are 4.7 million homes built before 1978 when lead paint was banned, of which 52% still contain lead paint. Other attorneys for the Plaintiffs were Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy; Motley Rice; and the Law Offices of Peter Earle.
Alexander explained that "each year, thousands of children under six years of age, are lead poisoned, most of them exposed to lead through lead paint in their homes. Lead paint deteriorates over time leaving paint chips and dust that gets on floors, window sills and toys to which young children are exposed. Lead poisoning causes damage to the brain and nervous systems of children and it is permanent and irreversible. The impact is particularly great in minorities and children living in poor housing."
Alexander cited an internal industry document by Sherwin Williams in 1900 which described the paint ingredient white lead as a "deadly cumulative poison." In 1909, a California Supreme case held that ConAgra was responsible for lead poisoning employees in its own lead plant. "Despite this knowledge the companies continued to promote the sale of lead paint in the California cities and counties," Alexander stated.
The case now goes to the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Sixth Appellate Court, in San Jose, where the companies are expected to file over the next three months. Alexander is "confident" the judgment will remain in place.
(Alexander was hired by County of San Francisco in early 2001 to represent them to join the lawsuit. Later other counties came in and the attorneys had a joint agreement to represent all of the entities. Alexander was also involved in the appeals and litigation including 40 depositions. At the trial, she put on key expert medical witnesses on lead health effects. She also put on county employees including a county medical officer. She cross examined Sherwin Williams' expert and obtained admissions. She was one of the lead trial lawyers and noted that "It was a team effort.")
Alexander, who resides in Atherton with her office in San Francisco, is former National President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
A copy of Judge Kleinberg's Order may be found in the following court links:
Final Amended Judgment March 26, 2014:
Final statement of decision:
The Judge was Judge James Kleinberg, Santa Clara Superior Court. Verdict was issued on December 16; the final order was January 7.
The case was The People of the State of California vs. Atlantic Richfield Company, Conagra Grocery Products Company, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company, NL Industries Inc., and the Sherwin-Williams Company.
For more information:
Mary Alexander & Associates
44 Montgomery St., suite 1303
San Francisco, CA 94104
Media wishing more information or to speak with Ms Alexander may contact: Bob Weiner 301-283-0821, cell 202-306-1200; [email protected]
SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates and Mary Alexander & Associates, P.C.