As You Sow v. Holchem, Inc., et al.

Posted: 08/02/1996  browse the case archive

On August 2, 1996, the San Francisco Superior Court entered a Stipulated Judgment regarding the allegations raised by Proposition 65 private enforcer and whistleblower, As You Sow, against a manufacturer and distributor of bulk chemicals (drums and railcar containers) in California, Holchem, Inc. (Case No. CGC-96-973714). The settlement and subsequent judgment resolved AYS's allegations that Holchem failed to warn its customers and consumers in California that certain paints, lacquers, solvents and other chemicals distributed in California contain chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm, or birth defects.

The settlement required Holchem to provide consumers in California with specific health hazard warnings for products that contain lead, cadmium, chromium, methylene chloride, nickel, ether acetate, ethylene glycol, and other Proposition 65-listed chemicals. Holchem agreed to provide the specific health hazard warnings requested by AYS and to revise the MSDS included with its products to apprise consumers of the health hazards associated with exposures to the particular chemical or chemicals contained in the product. In addition, Holchem provided California customers in possession of remaining inventory of products shipped prior to the settlement date with the necessary health hazard warning labels to apply to the products prior to sale.

The settlement payments totaled $90,000. Holchem paid $60,000 in civil penalties for its alleged violations of Proposition 65. This payment was divided between the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment (75%) and AYS (25%) as required by Proposition 65. Additionally, in lieu of civil penalties, Holchem paid $30,000 to AYS, who donated the funds to the Golden Gate University Environmental Law and Justice Clinic. The settlement further required the parties to negotiate the reimbursement of AYS's reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, or to apply to the Court for an un-appealable determination of fees and costs awarded pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 (fees awarded for public benefit obtained).

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