The Sherwin-Williams Company v. California

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court
  • Issue: First Amendment
  • Status: Decided October 2018
  • Term: October 2018
  • Oral Argument:
  • Vote:
  • Opinion:
  • Lower Court: Court of Appeal of California, Sixth Appellate District

Question Presented:

Whether the First Amendment permits California to impose tort liability for truthful promotion of a lawful product that was deemed hazardous decades later. 

RLC's Position:

The RLC’s brief uses a hypothetical situation that takes place in the year 2118 by which point scientists have “conclusively proven” that cows are the cause of climate change so farmers and grocers who promoted “grass-fed beef” and “organic milk” in 2018 could be held liable a century later for the “indivisible public nuisance” of climate change. The hypothetical is not far off from the facts of Sherwin-Williams. The brief concludes that the trial court’s decision creates a new theory of liability that lawful advertising of legal products without proving causation ignores traditional tort law principles and unfairly targets entities for shared harms they neither caused nor could have foreseen. 

Court Outcome: 

The Court denied the petition. 

Procedural History & Case Documents

Please use the DOWNLOAD button below to access the RLC's Brief.


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