Oct 2, 2013

Bill to Curtail Prop 65 Lawsuits Expects Governor’s Signature

A bill, intended to curtail lawsuits against companies accused of failing to comply with California's Proposition 65 requirements for posting warnings on potentially harmful chemicals, was passed by the California Assembly on Sept. 11 and is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature. The measure passed the California Senate on Sept. 10.

Proposition 65 (Prop 65) requires businesses to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment. Consumers have the right to sue companies they believe to be in violation of the law, which allows for fines of $2,500 per day for violations.

A.B. 227, introduced in February by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank), originally would have generally allowed the ability to cure a Prop 65 warning violation. As it was sent to the Governor, however, it was narrowed substantially and would require a person filing an enforcement action in the public interest to provide a notice in a proof of compliance form for Prop 65 warning violations and exposures related only to food or beverage preparation, alcoholic beverages, smoking on premises where smoking is allowed, and engine exhaust in parking lots reserved for non-commercial vehicles. The bill would prohibit an enforcement action from being filed by that person, and would prohibit the recovery of certain payments or reimbursements, if the notice to the violator alleges a failure to provide a clear and reasonable warning for those specified exposures and, within 14 days after receiving the notice, the alleged violator corrects the alleged violation, pays a civil penalty in the amount of $500 per facility or premises, and notifies the person bringing the action that the violation has been corrected pursuant to the specified  proof of compliance form. 

"A.B. 227 strikes a balance by helping businesses avoid senseless litigation while preserving the public's ability to obtain proper warnings about dangerous chemicals," Gatto said. "It shouldn't cost California's small businesses thousands of dollars because of issues with a $20 sign." According to his office, some businesses have paid $10,000 or more to settle claims.

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