Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Glendale News-Press: A dozen restaurants in tri-city area face legal action addressed in Gatto bill

Gatto's bill would give restaurants a reprieve from predatory legal filings over signage. Above, a pizzeria in Pasadena. (Times Community News / February 8, 2013)
A bill introduced this week by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) to protect against what he called “shakedown lawsuits” comes as 12 businesses in his district face similar legal action for not posting simple signage — violations that have spurred thousands of dollars in settlement agreements in the past.
In the last two months Miguel Custodio Law in Pasadena has informed five restaurants each in Burbank and Pasadena and two others in South Pasadena that they are in violation of Proposition 65, a voter approved law that requires establishments to post “clear and reasonable” warnings if the public is at risk of being exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.

That would include restaurants that serve alcohol — businesses that frequently find themselves at the receiving end of predatory legal claims since the law allows the public to sue for up to $2,500 for each day the signage isn’t properly displayed.

Before a suit is filed, plaintiffs are required to file a notice with the state, which then has 60 days to decide whether it wants to sue before any other lawsuit can be filed. If they state officials don’t, businesses often agree to pay a settlement to avoid costly litigation, hence the term “shakedown...”

...all 55 currently active 60-day notices for alcohol were filed by Miguel Custodio and Vineet Dubey of the firm Miguel Custodio Law in Pasadena — 52 of them on behalf of three plaintiffs: Danny Sing, Jesse Garrett and Rafael Delgado Jr.

Gatto’s bill, AB 227, would allow a business owner who receives a 60-day notice to avoid retrospective fines by fixing the violation within 14 days.

In a statement Tuesday, Gatto cited the example of Brett Schoenhals, owner of the Coffee Table in Eagle Rock, who told the assemblyman that the 60-day notice he received in January from Custodio threatened a lawsuit of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Custodio said he had yet to be contacted by Schoenhals, and had not yet filed a lawsuit against any business for a Proposition 65 violation...

...Custodio came under scrutiny in a Los Angeles Times report for filing 27 American Disabilities Act lawsuits on behalf of one Eric Moran in 2010, and seeking $9,000 out-of-court settlements to avoid lawsuits...

...Malbec Restaurants Inc. — which is based in Burbank and runs the Malbec Argentinian restaurants in Pasadena and Toluca Lake — was served a notice by Custodio on Jan. 16...

-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News
Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal

You can read this entire article and more at the Glendale News Press HERE

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly.  He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood.   www.asm.ca.gov/gatto

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