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3rd Bill Allowing Suits Against Tobacco Firms Goes to Wilson

September 04, 1997| Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — People who claim they are the victims of secondhand smoke or tobacco company deception could sue the industry for health-related costs under legislation sent to Gov. Pete Wilson on Wednesday.

The measure by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford) is the third bill sent to the Republican governor this year that attacks a 1987 statute that created a lawsuit shield for products such as tobacco that are widely known to be unsafe.

Wilson has already signed a bill by Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante (D-Fresno) that says the statute does not prevent the state from suing tobacco companies 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.

A second bill, by Sen. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco), would repeal the shield for tobacco companies. It is on Wilson's desk awaiting action.

The Sher bill would stipulate that the 1987 law never covered lawsuits filed by people who contend that they became ill by breathing secondhand smoke or because they were the victims of fraud, misrepresentation or a conspiracy by the tobacco industry.

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