Guestblogger Peter Morin earlier this month took note of a bracing decision by Judge David Sills, presiding justice for a California court of appeal, overturning a $540,000 settlement in a Proposition 65 toxic-warning case filed by what he called “bounty hunters”. The National Law Journal has followed on with more details of the case, Consumer Defense Group v. Rental Housing Industry Members, in which a law firm, acting on behalf of a supposed consumer group and complainant, “sued 170 apartment building owners around California and the Rental Housing Industry trade association for failure to warn of the danger of cigarette smoking by tenants anywhere in the building and parking lots where auto exhaust might expose tenants to carcinogens. … the ultimate global settlement included a promise to post a generic warning on buildings and a laundry list of potential sources of cancer provided on a Web site, including furniture, paint, construction materials, cleaning supplies, swimming pool chemicals, pest control and landscaping.” It gets better:
“Trade group wanted to buy its peace and was willing to pay off the law firm to obtain it, in return for which the owners would also get a favorable deal with regard to any future litigation concerning Proposition 65 violations,” Sills wrote. But he saved his wrath for Graham & Martin. “Consumer Defense Group and McKenzie are simply straw plaintiffs set up to enable the law firm of Graham & Martin to obtain legal fees in Proposition 65 litigation. We will therefore refer to the ‘plaintiffs’ by the title most substantively accurate: Graham & Martin,” said Sills.