While California’s Proposition 65 was intended to stop companies from using notoriously hazardous materials, it has instead created a lawsuit factory, according to a report in the LA Times. Many companies operating in the consumer products sector in California routinely attach warnings for any of the more than 900 chemicals and elements covered by Proposition 65 without testing for them or attempting to reformulate products. These companies fear citizen-enforcer lawsuits more than they fear needlessly worrying consumers.
That profusion of warnings has subverted Proposition 65 and left Californians, and increasingly anyone who shops online, overwarned, underinformed and potentially unprotected, a Times investigation has found. And it has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to a handful of attorneys and their repeat clients.
Attorneys general have repeatedly accused these citizen enforcers and their attorneys of preying on companies that can ill afford to defend themselves, filing weak or frivolous cases, collecting unreasonable fees, and offering illusory remedies in settlements. In fact, according to state data attorney fees account for nearly three-quarters of the more than $300 million that has been paid out in Proposition 65 settlements since the year 2000. The LA Times found that lion’s share of that goes to a handful of habitual litigants, several of which amount to opaque front groups with closer ties to attorneys than to California consumers.