That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.
My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.
“A [lawyer's rep] discovered the scoops while walking through a store with a hand-held spectrometer that can detect the presence of chemicals covered by Prop 65″ [Bob Dorigo Jones discussing Wacky Warning Labels contest]
This year’s Wacky Warning Labels contest has reached the finalist stage. Others that made the cut: “Wash hands after using” on a common extension cord, a Prop 65 (California) warning on a box of matches advising that they may produce combustion by-products, and a warning on a pedometer that the maker will not be liable for any injuries to runners using the device. [Bob Dorigo Jones]
More: David Henderson on “warning pollution.”
Not very, fears Bruce Nye at Cal Biz Lit, who notes that “The Chanler Group, the self-described ‘Largest Proposition 65 Citizen Enforcement Law Firm,’ wasted no time in announcing its support for the Governor’s proposals.” Prop 65, of course, is the famous California enactment under which an army of bounty-hunters have set forth to file suits and collect settlements from California businesses for failing to warn of the carcinogenic or mutagenic ingredients in hundreds of common products, from matches (which emit carbon monoxide) to brass knobs to roasted coffee to grilled chicken to billiard cue chalk. Gov. Brown’s reforms omit several stronger recommendations, such as “moving the burden of proof to the plaintiff to show that exposures exceed the applicable no significant risk level (‘NSRL’) or maximum allowable dose level (‘MADL’).”
Most importantly, would the private enforcer bar support Assembly Member Gatto’s AB 227, allowing a company receiving a 60 day notice to avoid prosecution by curing the violation within 14 days? Or better still, Cal Biz Lit’s proposal to allow sixty days to cure violations?
Those measures would be real reform.
More: Amanda Robert, Legal NewsLine.
After the quarter-century disgrace that is Proposition 65 litigation — run by and for lawyers’ interests, with no discernible benefit to the health of the citizenry — you’d think California voters would have learned a thing or two. But unless poll numbers reverse themselves, they’re on the way to approving this fall’s Proposition 37, ostensibly aimed at requiring labeling of genetically modified food, whose main sponsor just happens to be a Prop 65 lawyer. I explain in a new piece at Daily Caller. More coverage: Western Farm Press; Hank Campbell, Science 2.0; Ronald Bailey, Reason (& Red State).
More: defenders of Prop 37 point to this analysis (PDF) by economist James Cooper, arguing that 37 is drafted more narrowly than 65 in ways that would avert some of the potential for abusive litigation. And from Hans Bader: would the measure be open to challenge as unconstitutional, or as federally preempted?
California’s Proposition 65 strikes again [Stoll]
Tom Scott in Flash Report notes that a specialized California bar continues to rake in substantial money suing businesses for alleged Prop 65 violations, such as failing to put warnings on their merchandise. Three named lawyers (Russell Brimer, Anthony Held, and John Moore) obtained attorney’s fees and costs last year in the $1.8 million-$2 million range after settling 61, 41 and 47 suits respectively.
Anthony T. (Tom) Caso at the Federalist Society’s “Engage” analyzes California chemical-warning law, long notorious for empowering entrepreneurial lawyers to file suits supposedly on behalf of the general public and then settle those suits for cold cash.