David Gatto, Manager/Product Compliance & Quality Control for Westinghouse Lighting, explained how lighting manufacturers place themselves at risk for lawsuits if they do not label their products correctly
California Prop65 details a consumer warning that is required if there is a reasonable likelihood of exposure to any Prop65 listed chemical. As Gatto noted, “There are more than 900 chemicals listed to date, and new chemicals are added regularly.” Any product manufacturer whose products are sold in California (or whose business is located in California) must supply this label. In areas where foreign languages are used, warnings must also be in those languages.
“To warn or not to warn, for lighting manufacturers that truly is the question,” Gatto said, adding, failure to warn (i.e. label) is virtually guaranteed to result in legal expenses associated with frivolous lawsuits from “bounty hunter” firms.
While warning labels add cost, take up valuable space on packaging, and may discourage some consumers from purchasing products they fear are “unsafe,” some manufacturers may find it less costly to label products based on a reasonable likelihood that a specific chemical may be present in order to reduce testing costs and avoid potential litigation.
According to Gatto, most Prop65 cases are brought under the law’s “bounty hunter” provision, which allows private plaintiffs to bring an action seeking penalties for alleged violations. Apparently every month, scores of new cases are filed – mostly by a dozen or so highly active private plaintiff groups – alleging failure to warn due to the presence of listed substances. When it comes to lighting, lead is the most commonly cited “chemical” in Prop65 lawsuits.