Is Prop. 65 Reform Coming?

Tom Scott
CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

For quite some time I have written about a small group of trial lawyers who have made it their practice to file shakedown lawsuits against businesses under the guise of Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

Prop 65 encourages “citizen enforcement,” i.e., lawsuits, against businesses and landlords who fail to adequately warn consumers if products or business areas will lead to exposure to certain chemicals at levels above specified thresholds. Presently, the state maintains a list of more than 800 chemicals, and damages for failing to properly notify the public can lead to lawsuits seeking damages of up to $2,500 per day.

As one might suspect, this law is ripe for abuse by unscrupulous lawyers seeking quick settlements from small businesses. I have heard from countless small business owners who have been the target of these lawsuits. One law firm has noted that since it was passed, Prop 65 has resulted in more than 16,000 lawsuits and more than $500 million in settlements. This has been going on for decades, and something needs to be done to stop these shakedown lawsuits.

That’s why I was happy to hear about AB 227. Introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-LA) the bill would allow a business owner who receives notice of a Prop 65 violation to avoid fines by fixing the violation within 14 days. “The voters passed Prop 65 to be protected from chemicals that would hurt them,” Gatto stated. “They did not intend to create a situation where shakedowns of California’s small business owners would cause them to want to close their doors.”

CALA applauds Assemblyman Mike Gatto for his leadership on this issue. CALA supports the intent of Prop 65, but has long documented the abusive lawsuits associated with its enforcement. AB 227 is a pragmatic and reasonable approach to solving this issue.

If you support the intent of AB 227, please take the time to call Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s office and let him know at 916-319-2043

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