Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Court Upholds Sanctions Against Proposition 65 ‘Bounty Hunter’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A prolific litigator of “bounty hunter” lawsuits under Proposition 65 is liable for $20,000 in penalties for failing to file statutorily required reports on those suits with the state attorney general, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. Two Friday affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lee Edmon’s order assessing penalties against Los Angeles attorney Morse Mehrban.
Mehrban litigates on behalf of Consumer Cause, Inc., a nonprofit organization that had brought or threatened thousands of suits as a private attorney general under Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. State records show that Mehrban’s mother is the president of Consumer Cause, his father is the treasurer, and his wife is the secretary and only paid employee.
Proposition 65 anyone to sue “in the public interest” for violation of the act’s warning requirements if neither the attorney general nor the district attorney of the county in which the alleged violation occurred sues within 60 days after being notified of the alleged violation.
A legislative amendment enacted in 1999 requires that private plaintiffs report the filing and disposition of each case to the attorney general. Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued Mehrban last year after an audit showed that Mehrban had disposed of 22 Proposition 65 cases without filing the required reports.
Edmon ruled that two of the 22 alleged violations could not be sued upon because they occurred more than four years before suit was filed, but imposed the maximum penalty of $1,000 as to each of the remaining violations.
The Court of Appeal, in an unpublished opinion by Justice Victoria Chavez, said the trial judge’s findings that the reporting requirements had been violated were supported by substantial evidence.
The auditor’s testimony, Chavez said, established that each of the cases had been settled and that none of the required reports had been filed. The trial judge was not required to credit Mehrban’s testimony that he delegated responsibility for the reports to a paralegal and believed they had been filed, the justice said.
Nor, Chavez added, was the state required to notify Mehrban in advance of filing suit that his reports had not been received, although it did so in nine of the 20 cases.
The case is People ex rel. Lockyer v. Mehrban, B189286.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company