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California Takes Rare Step to Rein in Personal Injury Lawyers

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law this past weekend a reform that will serve to rein in an element of California’s infamously shameless personal injury bar that had been using a well-intentioned health and environmental initiative to extort money from small business owners.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the law reforms voter-approved Proposition 65, the state’s landmark 1986 anti-toxins law, with an aim of reducing lawsuits and fines for businesses.

Prop 65 requires businesses to post notices about the presence of practically ubiquitous, if remotely dangerous, chemicals, including alcohol, diesel engine exhaust and coffee-roasting byproducts, among countless others.

“Some business owners, particularly owners of bars and coffee shops, complained the law had spawned a wave of frivolous lawsuits and excessive fines over improper signage,” the Times reports.

The new reforms give businesses that are notified of a possible lawsuit two weeks to post proper signs and pay nominal fines before they can be subjected to litigation or steeper fines.

“It’s a rare day when California lawmakers act to contain shamelessly parasitic personal injury lawyers, so this baby step in the right direction is truly a cause for celebration,” says the American Tort Reform Association’s director of communications, Darren McKinney.

“Sacramento will only make marginal moves to rein in bottom-feeding plaintiffs’ lawyers,” McKinney added, “and even then it’s only after small businessmen and women scream bloody murder, as they did on Prop 65 and, last year, on Americans with Disability Act lawsuits.  And the so-called compromise reform of ADA lawsuits wouldn’t have happened had U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein not sent a threatening letter to Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg, a past president of the state personal injury lawyers association.”

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