CHICAGO - A circuit court judge in Chicago dismissed the city's lawsuit against a group of former manufacturers of lead paint and pigments in the latest in a series of legal victories for the industry in its defense against such suits.

The city immediately said it would appeal the decision, according to news reports. In the suit, the city was seeking to force the defendant companies to remove lead-based paint from all areas accessible to children in Chicago.

In her ruling, Judge Nancy J. Arnold said the plaintiffs had been unable to specifically identify either a manufacturer or a specific paint that had caused injury. She also said the manufacturers have not made or sold lead paint for decades, and that the defendants "lost control over their products at the point of sale." In addition, the judge dismissed suggestions that lead paint poses an ongoing "public nuisance" and said the court cannot order a manufacturer to remove paint from private property that is owned by others.

Judge Arnold described the suit as "a disguised product-liability claim targeting the manufacturers of lead paint based on injuries arising decades after the paint has been used and allowed to deteriorate by others." She added that at least four other state courts have dismissed similar complaints against manufacturers.

The ruling was applauded by Dan Webb, an attorney for Atlantic Richfield Co., one of the companies named as defendants. Webb said the court rejected the city's attempt "to shift responsibility for lead paint removal from the owners of affected property, where the Illinois General Assembly and the city, through its code, have placed it, to a selected group of companies."

Webb called the lawsuit "a misguided attempt to reverse the policies established by the state legislature and the Illinois Department of Health, which have concluded that intact lead paint is not a hazard and that enforcement efforts should focus on landlords and property owners who allow lead paint to deteriorate."