This week is Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, where we highlight the many ways that personal injury lawyers abuse the law and our court system for their own profit.
Lawsuit abuse and California’s Proposition 65 go hand-in-hand. Right now, sweeping revisions to this law are going into effect, meaning that unscrupulous trial lawyers are quietly getting their ducks in a row in anticipation of filing frivolous shakedown lawsuits that will critically damage California’s small business community.
Proposition 65 includes a private right of action that allows lawyers to sue without a client, even if no one has been harmed. In fact, since 1986, nearly 20,000 shakedown lawsuits have been filed against small businesses, who have been forced to pay more than $500 million in settlements. Prop 65 was originally intended to keep chemicals that cause cancer and reproductive harm out of drinking water, and to reduce exposure to those substances by requiring businesses to notify consumers about which products contained those chemicals. Over the past thirty years, knee-jerk reactions to emotionally driven “scientific” opinions have transformed Prop 65 into a list of 800+ substances, many of which have not been proven to cause cancer or reproductive defects at warning levels.
Case in point: BPA. Last year, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) made the widely-disputed decision to list BPA under Proposition 65, despite the abundance of comprehensive, scientifically sound research substantiating otherwise. In fact, a broad spectrum of the most credible and well-respected international health experts, including the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have consistently concluded through thorough research that exposure to BPA is safe in typical dosage levels.
What do typical dosage levels look like? They’re extremely low – to be clear, 1,000 times below the safe harbor level set by the FDA and EFSA. To further complicate the issue, OEHHA has decided not to set a safe harbor level for BPA and as a result, all products containing the slightest trace of BPA must now be labeled with a Prop 65 warning to avoid the possibility of lawsuit. What does that look like in practice? Imagine grocery store shelves lined with signage listing obscure items found in trace amounts within the item you’re purchasing.
The decision to list new chemicals without setting corresponding safe harbor levels gives trial lawyers the green light to act on shakedown lawsuits – this is history repeating itself. Small business owners often do not have a lot of wiggle room with their bank accounts, and these requirements will place many in financial jeopardy.
These frivolous and unnecessary lawsuits happen on all fronts: small family businesses, retailers, general manufacturers, and more. The abuse which stems from these lawsuits harm our economy, small business, and consumers. Forcing all of us to financially support the lifestyle of trial lawyers.