SACRAMENTO — Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a bill Friday that would have cleared the way for product liability lawsuits against the tobacco industry by people who say they were injured by secondhand smoke.
Wilson has signed two other bills that strip the tobacco industry of the protection it enjoyed under a 1987 statute exempting from product liability lawsuits the makers or sellers of inherently unsafe products.
But Wilson said the vetoed bill--by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford)--was rendered moot by an earlier measure removing tobacco from the list of protected products.
The earlier bill, by Sen. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco), says there is no legal barrier to lawsuits filed by California smokers "or others," Wilson said.
In addition to the Kopp bill, Wilson signed legislation by Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante (D-Fresno) that says the immunity statute does not prevent the state from suing tobacco firms to recover the cost of treating indigents for smoking-related illnesses.
California and about 40 other states have sued the industry to recover those costs, and a proposed $368-billion settlement of the suits is awaiting congressional approval.