CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

End of Legislative Session Recap: Many Successes, Work Still To Do

By Todd Roberson on 09/12/2011 @ 11:48 PM

Tags: Legal Climate, Legislature

The California Legislature wrapped up its 2011 session in the very early hours of Saturday morning. Supporters of civil justice reform will be pleased to know that CJAC had a great deal of success this year.

First off, 35 of the 41 bills that we opposed because they would have made lawsuit abuse worse in California were either killed or amended to our satisfaction. CJAC will be lobbying Governor Brown's administration heavily over the next month and requesting vetoes of the six bills now on his desk that we still oppose (Assembly Bills 267, 325, 559, 1220, 1319, and Senate Bill 931).

Here are a few of the most noteworthy bills that were stopped in the Legislature:

  • AB 1062 would have greatly undermined arbitration in California by prohibiting an appeal when a lower court refuses to enforce an arbitration agreement.
  • AB 1207 would have exposed businesses to never-ending lawsuits by removing the statute of limitations on claims stemming from exposure to hazardous materials or pollution.
  • AB 52 would have created additional regulations on health plans regarding the rates they may charge and would allow lawyers to sue as "interveners" on behalf of the general public whether they have a client who has been harmed or not - a recipe for abusive claims.
  • SB 558 would have increased the likelihood of lawsuits against nursing homes by reducing the standard of proof required to win from a higher standard (clear and convincing) proof to a lower "more likely than not" standard (preponderance).
  • SB 631 would have substantially expanded the Insurance Commissioner's powers by allowing him to order restitution for economic harm in enforcement actions against insurers.

Furthermore, while it continues to be quite difficult to get proactive legal reform proposals through the Legislature, two bills supported by CJAC have already been signed into law (ABs 141 and 571) and four more are now being considered by Governor Brown. These include:

  • AB 1219 (passed by the Legislature, on Brown's desk) would make clarifying changes to the Song Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971 by allowing personal information, such as a zip code, to be requested and retained in reasonable circumstances. These changes are necessary in light of the California Supreme Court's recent decision in the Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma Stores, Inc. case that resulted in dozens of lawsuits.
  • AB 1074 (passed by the Legislature, on Brown's desk) would provide immunity for damage or loss caused by supplying 9-1-1 service unless there was gross negligence or intentional misconduct by the provider.

So, we have much to be pleased about so far but the next month is critical. We'll be working hard to help Governor Brown understand that California needs relief from abusive lawsuits. We're hopeful he will see it that way.

For more information on legislation and CJAC's positions, please go to our Legislative Center.

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