It is hard to believe, but trial lawyers earned more than $21 Million from business owners last year in Proposition 65 lawsuits involving California’s mandatory chemical labeling law according to the Center for Accountability in Science (CAS). The Center released a new video today (Aug. 20, 2015) with interviews with small business owners feeling the financial pinch from Prop. 65. Rather than making Californians safer, the owners claim the required warning label on products that might cause cancer has become a hay day for trial lawyers and their clients who are forced into large financial settlements.
The new video highlights the horror stories of three small businesses—a golf club cover manufacturer, instrument case manufacturer and nutritional supplement manufacturer. All were slapped with lawsuits under Prop. 65. The segments illustrate how their products pose no reasonable risk of harm to consumers, yet their business each were forced to pay thousands in settlement costs for failing to adequately warn consumers.
“Certainly, we should tell consumers whether they’re being exposed to toxic substances, but the threshold for warning under Proposition 65 is so low it’s utterly ridiculous,” explained Dr. Joseph Perrone, chief science officer, the Center for Accountability in Science. “Consumers have no way of looking at a product with a Proposition 65 warning label and understanding their actual risk of harm.” Dr. Perrone also noted that instead of helping people make informed decisions about their health, the law has expanded into gravy train for trial lawyers earning millions from business owners who fail to warn consumers of nonexistent health risks.
Newly-released figures from the California Attorney General’s office reveal businesses paid more than $29 million to settle Prop. 65 lawsuits last year, a 68 percent jump from 2013. Of that 71 percent went to trial lawyers. Since 2000, business owners have paid more than $228 million to settle Prop. 65 lawsuits. Around $150 million of that total went to plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and costs.
The video released reports that the cost of defending against a Prop. 65 lawsuit, even when a business is innocent, is so high that many small and mid-sized business owners are pressured to settle out-of-court. To ward off future lawsuits, some businesses have started putting labels on all of their products, regardless of whether they actually contain a chemical listed under Prop..
“It’s absurd to think consumers are actually at risk of harm from the golf club cover sitting in their garage most of the year or the case used to carry a guitar,” said Dr. Perrone. “These bounty hunter shakedowns highlight the need for California’s legislators to tackle real reform to Prop. 65. The state simply can’t continue allowing lawyers to piggyback off business owners under the guise of protecting Californians.” Dr. Perrone’s study calls for reforms to Prop.65.
The Center for Accountability in Science is dedicated to providing a balanced look at the science behind the news stories and examining the organizations behind efforts to scare consumers. CAS is a project of the non-profit Center for Organizational Research and Education. For more on the Center visit: https://www.accountablescience.com/