California approves measure to block citizen lawsuits against businesses

By a significant margin, California voters on Tuesday approved Proposition 64, which curtails the right of private citizens and public-interest groups to bring legal action against companies under the state’s Unfair Business Competition Law — a move that could hamper efforts to protect the state’s environment. The statute has been used by private groups to go after companies that pollute and violate the law in other ways. Now, citizens will have to show that they’ve been financially harmed by a business’s action in order to file suit. Supporters of 64 say that’s a good thing, as they claim that so-called “shakedown suits” were hurting the economy. The proposition was opposed by environmental and consumer groups and the state attorney general, and supported by many large corporations, smaller businesses, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). Meanwhile, voters in California’s Butte, San Luis Obispo, and Humboldt counties all rejected initiatives banning genetically modified crops, sharply undercutting the momentum of anti-GM forces in the state.