County of Santa Clara, et al. v. Atlantic Richfied, et al.


The County, along with several other local governments, in particular the City and County of San Francisco, filed this action to hold lead paint manufacturers responsible for abating the public nuisance they created by marketing lead paint as a safe product, despite knowing that the product was in fact dangerous, especially to children. The manufacturers filed a motion to bar our retention of private attorneys, claiming that a California Supreme Court opinion prohibits public entities from retaining private attorneys on a contingent fee basis when prosecuting public nuisance actions. In April 2008, the Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in our favor, reversing the trial court’s decision. In July 2008, the California Supreme Court granted a petition for review. The County is now awaiting argument before the Supreme Court, having submitted our own brief and coordinated amicus support from ethics professors, the California State Association of Counties, and public health, children’s advocacy, labor, and anti-poverty groups.

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