Bill that would prohibit certain secret settlements eligible for floor vote; staff urges members to editorialize in support

A measure that was introduced last year that would prohibit confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements that suppress facts about a public danger-like a defective product or environmental hazard- was removed from the Assembly inactive file this week, a procedural move that precedes a floor vote.

AB 889, authored by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), would prevent companies from hiding facts about dangerous products.

Supported by CNPA, the bill seeks to end the practice of gagging plaintiffs and their lawyers from talking about products that pose a threat to the public.

Led by the Chamber of Commerce and the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, there is strong opposition to AB 889 from the business community who were successful in bottling the bill up last year.

To help overcome the formidable opposition, CNPA staff urges members to editorialize in support of the measure.

AB 889 is an iteration of a bill from many years ago that sought to address the same issue after Firestone/Bridgestone tires killed more than 150 people before they were recalled in 2000. More than 200 cases were secretly settled in the decade prior to the recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which among its many duties, investigates product defect claims that affect highway safety, recently opened an investigation about a 20-year-old Goodyear defect that was hidden, in NHTSA’s own words, because “the data produced in litigation was sealed under protective orders and confidential settlement agreements, precluding claimants from submitting it to NHTSA.”

The bill will most likely be heard sometime in the next few weeks. It must be passed off the Assembly floor by the end of the month to meet legislative deadlines.