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Frivolous California Lawsuits Cut Down Under New Law

Frivolous California Lawsuits Cut Down Under New Law

Ricardo Bernardo / Flickr

There's a racket in California where you can sue, say, the owner of the corner market for failing to post proper warnings about chemicals commonly found in the likes of beer and even coffee.

Lawyers had a field day with it, filing so-called frivolous lawsuits and bilking mom-and-pop retailers out of thousands of dollars worth of settlement money because their warning signs weren't the right size. Really.

Well, that's about to stop:

Over the weekend Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 227, a bill by L.A-area Assemblyman Mike Gatto that will give small businesses 14 days to comply with claims that their signs aren't proper under California's Prop. 65, Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

Business owners will have to get their signage straight and pay a "small civil fine" to the state, but otherwise they won't be strong-armed by lawyers looking to get $10,000 settlements.

California's own $2,500 per-day retroactive fine will also be nixed for those who comply. Gatto's office explains:

AB 227 essentially provides for a "fix-it ticket" for violations based on the most common, everyday substances covered under Prop. 65, such as alcoholic beverages or those that naturally occur when grilling food. These are the substances (coffee, beer) that spark outrage when the public learns that a business is facing steep fines or closure due to a lawsuit over the same.

Gatto's office today patted itself on the back, saying his bill "succeeded against very long odds" because it required two-thirds super-majority approval in the legislature.

The assemblyman says:

AB 227 will go a long way towards saving thousands of California businesses from unnecessary legal action. Threatening a small business with a lawsuit for serving its customers coffee with their breakfast, a burger with their lunch, or a glass of wine with dinner is absurd.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.