Climate science lawsuit bill goes from bad to worse

By Michael Shaw

Capitol Update, May 13, 2016 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

SB 1161 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) exposes companies who have made claims regarding climate science at any point in their history to lawsuits brought by the Attorney General or a district attorney in a four-year 'revival' period.

Under California's Unfair Competition Law, plaintiffs are currently required to bring a claim within four years of the act taking place or when it could reasonably have been expected to be discovered. SB 1161 originally sought to retroactively extend the statute of limitations back 30 years in order to reach back into the mid-1980's so that lawsuits could be brought against specific companies. However, amendments last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee dropped the 30-year provision in exchange for a more powerful provision that effectively eliminated the statute of limitations for the next four years.

If the bill passes the Legislature and is signed by Governor Jerry Brown, then any statement made by a company regarding their impact on climate change or climate science may be subject to a new lawsuit regardless of when the company made it.

CMTA is leading opposition to the measure because it is an overly broad extension of the statute of limitation and exposes companies to lawsuits for statements made at any point in their history. Defense becomes difficult, if not impossible, as witnesses and evidence fade with time. A likely scenario would result in companies being publicly shamed and pressured into certain actions as environmental organization use the news or threat of a lawsuit in a PR effort.

You can see the coalition letter here.

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