Bounty-Hunters Irk Calif. AG
Posted Jun 11, 2007 9:22 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
About a dozen law firms are filing lawsuits that help enforce a California law requiring businesses to tell consumers when they are exposed to cancer-causing substances.
Their suits generate 100 to 150 settlements totaling about $10 million a year, according to the state attorney general’s office. It has taken issue with some of the suits and a lawyer who files them, Clifford Chanler, reports Adam Liptak in the New York Times.
Under the law, passed by voters in 1986, lawyers get to collect a fourth of any penalty plus attorney fees. Penalties are as high as $2,500 a day.
In a letter sent to Chanler last month, Attorney General Jerry Brown said his approach “does not appear to be in the public interest.” Chanler’s clients “have collected significant sums of money from businesses that have little or no liability for past violations, and an amount of attorney fees that appears to exceed a reasonable amount,” the letter said.
Chanler, who focuses on lead in glasses and bottles, says his work is useful. He has obtained $15 million in the last seven years.
“Civil enforcement should not be left to public officials,” he told the Times, “because of the influence of money on politics and just the resource level available to the government.”