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DRUMROLL PLEASE - PROP. 65 SHAKEDOWNS CONTINUE IN 2011

Tom Scott, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

April 13, 2012
[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Tom Scott.  - Flash]

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Over the past few years CALA has tried to shed light on what seems to be one of the biggest legal shakedowns in California history and yet no one seems to be paying attention. Well, some new information has been published that should turn some heads.

The California Attorney General's office just posted the 2011 Proposition 65 Executive Settlement Summary. Those of you who have read previous blog posts by CALA know there is a small group of lawyers and law firms in California filing shakedown lawsuits against businesses for violations of Proposition 65. These individuals file lawsuits looking for quick settlements, taking huge legal fees as they go. These legal fees can range from 22.9% to almost 100% of the settlement.

The 2011 list of private settlements has been published and it tells us one thing: the abuse continues and NO ONE is doing a single thing about it. Let me give you a few highlights:

Russell Brimer settled 61 lawsuits related to Prop. 65 in 2011. The settlements totaled $2,282,485, and the civil penalties of those cases represented $368,900. The attorney fees and costs represented $1,936,085, making up 84 percent of the total.

Anthony Held settled 41 lawsuits related to Prop. 65 in 2011. The settlements totaled $2,239,250, and the civil penalties of those cases represented $207,500. The attorney fees and costs represented $2,031,750, making up 90 percent of the total.

Are you stunned? Here is one more. John Moore settled 47 lawsuits related to Prop. 65 in 2011. The settlements totaled $2,371,900, and the civil penalties of those cases represented $534,400. The attorney fees and costs represented $1,837,500, making up 77 percent of the total.

Does anyone see a pattern here? One individual settled six cases and took 96 percent of the total in fees. Another took 94 percent of the total in fees for four cases, which added up to six-figure amounts. To be fair, the Settlement Summary also states that at least those two gave contributions to the Susan G. Koman Foundation totaling $1,200. I wonder if they are regretting that now...

Seriously California, wake up. If you think predatory ADA lawsuits are bad, Prop. 65 lawsuits make them look like a child’s game. These are the mother of all shakedowns and no one is doing anything about it. These lawsuits are continuing to make California uncompetitive and they are destroying California’s small business environment.

In a future post I will peel back some of the layers to these individual cases and ask the question California’s small business owners are dying to have answered: why isn’t the Attorney General's office stopping these cases? Can they really be justified as being about safe drinking water or is it about allowing trial lawyers to line their pockets at the expense of California jobs and small business?
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Tom Scott is the Executive Director of the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

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