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February 2002 Issue Highlights

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Auto Parts Businesses Threatened with Proposition 65 Lawsuits
Pep Boys Selects PrimeTemp for Air Conditioning Line


Auto parts retailers and installers across the state have been contacted by groups threatening to file lawsuits against them under Proposition 65.

According to auto parts retailers, many have received letters threatening that they will be sued under California Health & Safety Code Section 25249.6. This section of the California code requires businesses to warn the public if they sell any item known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

As many items in the automotive industry fall under this category — items such as chemicals, motor oils, gasket sealers and belt dressings — California auto parts retailers and installers should have Proposition 65-compliant warnings posted at their businesses.

"There’s a group out there that’s going into auto parts businesses where Proposition 65 requires a sign posted in the facility to let the company inform the public of potential danger," explained Rodney Pierini of the California Automotive Wholesalers Association in Sacramento. "If they don’t see a sign, they’re turning the business in to state and local officials and they’re threatening a lawsuit against the company."

The CAWA reports that the companies that have been targeted for the potential lawsuits primarily are those with 10 or more employees, which sell or install items subject to Proposition 65 warnings, or "own, operate or manage enclosed or partially enclosed automobile or motor vehicle service garages, lots or showrooms."

According to those who have received notices, most were sent out in December by a group called Citizens for Responsible Business — a group that did not exist in November. Others have received letters from Reuben Yeroushalmi on behalf of the Consumer Advocacy Group, Inc.

According to Sandra Duval of the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, "These ’citizen’ lawsuits begin with a sixty-day notice that must include, among other things, a description of the violation that is clear enough to allow the recipient of the notice to understand the nature of his or her alleged violation."

Duval continued, "The alleged violator, the state Attorney General, and, in some cases the local city attorney must all receive a copy of the notice. A lawsuit cannot be filed for sixty days after the notice is given. If after that time, a public prosecutor is vigorously pursuing an enforcement action against the alleged violator, the private attorney cannot file his or her own suit. However, that rarely happens."

Duval also noted that under a new state law, any settlement negotiated must be reviewed by the Attorney General.

It is believed that the groups filing the lawsuits have two motivations for taking action. The first motivation is believed to be money; seeking settlements from businesses to stay out of court. The second motivation is believed to be an effort to try and remove some of the products from the market that are thought to have toxins in their chemistry.

Reportedly over 3,500 businesses have been attacked across California. "It’s been going pretty strong across the state," Pierini said. "It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re an independent or flying a program flag. Several of our members have been served."

"It’s crazy," said Pierini. "It’s almost akin to when the auto parts store is selling brakes and they handled a part in 1957, delivering it from the manufacturer to the technician, and that brake pad had asbestos in it. Suddenly the auto parts store is sued by someone. They’re just trying to get to the deep pockets of the manufacturer but they have to name the auto parts store to get there. And the auto parts store is now defending itself in court."

Pierini says that he is telling CAWA members to contact the association’s attorneys if they receive any notice of pending legal action. "We’re just trying to notify our people if they come cross any of the people on these issues to call our attorneys. They’re coming up with a strategy to try and deal with this issue. Every member gets a free half-hour consultation with an attorney, so it’s a good way to try and deal with this problem head-on. It’s another service we provide our members."


Pep Boys has named Visteon’s new PrimeTemp brand as its primary line of air conditioning systems. The aftermarket retailer will sell and install the complete line of PrimeTemp air conditioning components.

"We are extremely excited that Pep Boys chose PrimeTemp as its air conditioning brand of choice," said David Peace, general manager of Visteon’s Global Aftermarket Operations. "Pep Boys is a major player in the automotive service industry, and we look forward to growing our air conditioning business while helping Pep Boys become even more successful."

Originally published in the February/March 2002 issue of Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright 2002 by KAL Publications Inc.

Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.