Three major law firms, with offices in California and worldwide, have come out to warn their grocer, food company and farmer clients that if Prop 37 passes it will set off a flood of lawsuits to the benefit of trial lawyers, much like Prop 65.
Prop. 65 involved chemicals and drinking water. "Prop 65 has led to 16,000 lawsuits and close to $500 million in settlements, much of which has gone directly to plaintiffs' lawyers for fees and costs," the firm Alston + Bird warned its clients. "Similarly, Prop 37 will likely impact many California businesses and may create an atmosphere favorable to private enforcers, leading to frequent litigation and settlements," the firm said in a website posting "Is California set to pass another Proposition 65?"
Prop. 37 outlines certain labeling requirements for food products sold in California that are produced through the use of genetic engineering (GE). The ballot initiative will be presented to California voters on Nov. 6. Both proponents and opponents see it as a stepping stone to eventual broader labeling for genetically modified (GMO) applications in food production.
A trio of national firms with large California clienteles are bracing for the onslaught of lawsuits that they expect will result from Prop. 37. They have warned that the measure will expose grocery retailers, food companies, farmers and others to “predatory, shakedown lawsuits.” All three firms have significant experience defending against Prop. 65 lawsuits and view Prop. 37 as possibly worse than Prop. 65.
Continued Alston+Bird: "The proponents of Prop 37 are the same plaintiffs' attorneys that have been litigating Prop 65 since it was enacted by California voters in 1986. It is highly likely that they will employ the same litigation techniques and activities to enforce Prop 37 that they have used in Prop 65 these many years."
Similar to Prop. 65, Prop. 37 allows trial lawyers to file a lawsuit against anyone and everyone associated with any food product that does not have a label -- even without evidence, testing or research showing the unlabeled product contains GE ingredients. California's independent Legislative Analyst concludes that Prop. 37 would allow trial lawyers "to sue without needing to demonstrate that any specific damage occurred as a result of the alleged violation."
“Yes on 37” has attempted to deflect claims of lawsuits by emphasizing that the measure gives grocery retailers and others sued an easy "out" if they merely produce sworn statements that there was no "knowing or intentional" use of GE.