The Center for Accountability in Science released a new video interviewing small businesses about the effects of California’s chemical warning law, known as Proposition 65, on their operations. Rather than making Californians safer, Proposition 65 has become a tool for trial lawyers and their clients to extract large financial settlements from businesses.
The new video highlights the experiences of three small businesses—a golf club cover manufacturer, instrument case manufacturer, and nutritional supplement manufacturer—served lawsuits under Proposition 65, and explains that while their products pose no reasonable risk of harm to consumers, these businesses were still 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. Consumers have no way of looking at a product with a Proposition 65 warning label and understanding their actual risk of harm. So instead of helping consumers make informed decisions impacting their health, the law has morphed into a way for trial lawyers to earn millions from business owners who fail to warn consumers of essentially nonexistent health risks.”
Newly-released figures from the California Attorney General’s office reveal businesses paid over $29 million to settle Proposition 65 lawsuits last year—a 68% increase from 2013. Seventy one percent of that total went to trial lawyers. Since 2000, businesses have paid more than $228 million to settle Proposition 65 lawsuits, and $150 million of that total went to plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and costs.
As explained in the video, the cost of defending against a Proposition 65 lawsuit in court—even when a business is innocent—is so high that many small and mid-sized businesses 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 Proposition 65.
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. These bounty hunter shakedowns highlight the need for California’s legislators to tackle real reform to Proposition 65. The state simply can’t continue allowing lawyers to piggyback off business owners under the guise of protecting Californians.
You can view my paper calling for reforms to Proposition 65 here.