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A ruling affirms ConAgra’s public nuisance suits as uninsurable

On Behalf of | May 9, 2022 | Insurance Law

A state appeals court ruled that ConAgra cannot secure insurance to cover a share of their approximately $102 million settlement over the use of toxic lead paint. The California state law’s decision denies defendants using insurance liability for losses that result from a policyholder’s willful misconduct.

The ruling by the First Appellate Court absolves more than 50 insurance companies of covering ConAgra’s nine-figure settlement. Providers include Lloyd’s of London, Chubb Ltd., and CNA Financial Corp.

A two-decade pursuit of justice

The payment to a lead paint abatement fund resulted from the company’s liability for a public nuisance resulting from willful acts of W.P. Fuller & Co., a paint manufacturer. ConAgra ended up responsible after multiple mergers, replacing Fuller as the “wrongdoer.”

Ten California counties and government agencies filed the original lawsuit in 2000 to hold multiple gasoline, paint, and chemical companies accountable for lead in homes and public buildings, referring to the actions as a “public health crisis.” In addition to ConAgra, Sherwin Williams and NL Industries, Inc. were also defendants in the legal action.

An amended complaint filed 11 years later on behalf of residents accused the companies of a public nuisance with the continuing promotion of lead-based paint when they were aware of the dangers, which resulted in a 1978 ban.

After 22 years, victims of ConAgra’s negligence can finally receive the justice they deserve.