Four business groups are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling from California that ordered paint manufacturers to pay billions of dollars because they ignored the health damages caused by putting lead in paint.

The friends of the court brief was filed Aug. 17 by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, the Coalition for Litigation Justice, and the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association.

The brief supports an appeal filed by Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries, and Con-Agree after they lost a case in which 10 Calfiornia cities and counties sought to make them clean up lead-based paint in dwellings. If the judgment from the California Court of Appeal is upheld, the manufacturers could have to pay up $1.5 billion or more, various press reports have said.

Sherwin-Williams and Con-Agra were ordered to pay for the removal of lead paint hazards in houses across the state that were built before 1951. NL Industries reached a $60 million settlement with the state in May.

NAM's Manufacturers’ Accountability Project called the case "a major, unsound departure in liability law. Manufacturers are standing up against this concerning trend of baseless lawsuits seeking to impose massive legal liability on manufacturers through the expansion of so-called 'public nuisance' lawsuits. ... Already, this misuse of tort law has inspired several other public nuisance cases, putting manufacturing jobs at risk in order to line the pockets of trial lawyers."

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there more than 37 million older homes in the United States, the most prone to containing lead-based paints and products such as lead paint on window frames, or chipped, deteriorated lead paint which when inhaled can cause detrimental harm to children if exposed. Lead-contaminated paint dust can be easily inhaled and is a common bi-product in renovation activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition. The lead paint chips can linger on the surfaces of a home for years, and children, workers, and adults can be contaminated through hand-to-mouth contact or breathing.

Lead-based paints have been banned since 1978. However, the harmful carcinogen remains in many schools, buildings, residences, and older homes.

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