CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

May 7, 2013

CJAC Praises Governor Brown’s Effort to Reform Prop. 65

SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown proposed reforms to Proposition 65 today, an initiative approved in 1986 that requires businesses to warn the public of exposure to toxic substances and which the Brown Administration says “has been abused by some unscrupulous lawyers driven by profit rather than public health.” The Governor’s proposed changes are aimed at reducing frivolous “shakedown” lawsuits, improving how the public is warned about exposure to toxic substances and strengthening the scientific basis for warning levels. CJAC President Kim Stone issued the following statement in response:

“Proposition 65 reform is long overdue and Governor Brown deserves a great deal of credit for recognizing that. This is an initiative that was well-intentioned, but it has been far more effective at enriching a small number of attorneys than protecting the public from toxic substances. Right now it is too easy to file Prop. 65 lawsuits and make money off of them. That’s why from 2000 to 2011, private plaintiffs’ lawyers received approximately $96 million from Prop. 65 settlements – over 60 percent of the total settlement dollars paid out. The Governor is absolutely right to require more from would-be plaintiffs and to target the financial incentives that currently exist for plaintiffs’ lawyers.

“The Governor’s proposal also wisely addresses the questionable ‘safe harbor’ levels used to determine what substances the initiative applies to. When Prop. 65 was passed it only applied to 29 substances and now it applies to almost 800. The result has been warning signs that are so commonplace that they do little to serve the public and some businesses post warnings that are not necessary just out of fear of a lawsuit. That is not a sign of a policy that’s working.

“We need to find a way to reduce Prop. 65 litigation while still protecting the public from harm. We urge the Legislature to give the Governor’s proposal the consideration it deserves.”

Additional information about the Governor’s proposal can be found here.

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