CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

Legislature Returns for Final Month of Session

By Todd Roberson on 08/08/2012 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Legislature

On Monday the Legislature reconvened to finish the work of the 2011-12 session. Lawmakers will be considering hundreds of bills prior to the August 31st deadline, and here are a few of the hot issues that CJAC will be focused on over the next few weeks:

SB 1528 - This bill, authored by Senate President Darrell Steinberg, has taken various forms since being introduced earlier this year. But it is clear that the intent is to undermine the California Supreme Court's ruling last year in Howell v. Hamilton Meats, which held that a plaintiff may only collect as damages the amount that was actually paid by insurers for medical treatment rather than the retail rate that medical providers would charge for that treatment. The plaintiffs' lawyer lobby has made this bill their number one priority and has very publicly stated that the purpose of this bill is to overturn Howell. CJAC is part of a large coalition that will continue lobbying against the bill.

SB 1186 - Steinberg and Republican Senator Bob Dutton joint-authored this measure to help reduce ADA litigation. Unfortunately it is so watered down that the current version of the bill would be of very little help. The bill would, however, prohibit demands for settlement payments. Steinberg has said that there probably won't be an "explicit right to cure" in the bill, which would have given those who are threatened with litigation a brief period of time to make the necessary fixes to their facilities. CJAC is supporting the bill as a very small step forward and will be closely tracking any changes that are made to it.

AB 2346 - This bill, authored by Assemblymember Betsy Butler, would encourage excessive litigation by requiring a host of new, onerous obligations on farmers, which would be enforceable by private lawsuits with lucrative awards of liquidated damages and only plaintiffs could get their attorney’s fees reimbursed. Included among the new requirements would be to provide all farm workers with water that is not warmer than 70 degrees F and that must also be good tasting! Any technical violation of the many new requirements created by the bill would result in liquidated damages of $500 per day multiplied by the number of employees and a presumption of fraud. California already has tough rules regarding heat illness prevention for employees working outdoors and CJAC is part of another large coalition opposing the bill.

Stay tuned for updates...

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Ninth Circuit Rejects Mini-Wheats Settlement Over Attorneys Fees, Cy Pres Award

By Todd Roberson on 07/17/2012 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Attorneys Fees, Class Actions

In yesterday's National Law Journal, Amanda Bronstad reports that a federal appeals court has rejected a class action settlement over alleged false advertising of a breakfast cereal, ruling that a plan to contribute some of the payout to charity bore no relation to the case and that the plaintiffs attorneys' fee award was excessively generous.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 13 reversed the trial judge who'd approved the settlement between Kellogg Co. and a nationwide class of consumers who alleged false advertising of its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal. Citing its 2011 decision in In re Bluetooth Headsets Litigation, the three-judge panel ruled that the settlement did not survive the heightened scrutiny that should be applied to class action settlements.

"The settlement provides no assurance that the charities to whom the money and food will be distributed will bear any nexus to the plaintiff class or to their false advertising claims and therefore violates our well-established standards governing cy pres awards," Senior Judge Stephen Trott wrote. "Moreover, the attorneys' fees are impermissibly high considering what the defective settlement provides the class."

Read the full article here (subscription required).

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FACT Act Will Create More Transparency Around Asbestos Trusts

By Todd Roberson on 07/10/2012 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Legal Reform

CJAC is urging support for the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act of 2012 (FACT Act), which has been introduced in the U.S. Senate as S. 3076 and the House of Representatives as H.R. 4369.

Asbestos trust funds were set up to pay claims filed against companies that have gone bankrupt or may be bankrupted in the future. Sadly, the future of these funds is in great jeopardy because asbestos trust funds operate in great secrecy, with information about claims filed or awards granted not available to the public or even to the other trusts in the system. This lack of transparency, according to findings by both the Rand Corporation and the Government Accountability Office, encourages fraud and abuse and allows the funds to be depleted and ultimately unavailable for those who are truly sick.

Currently asbestos trusts have no executive or judicial oversight making it impossible to assess if they are carrying out their congressional mandate. The failure of the trusts to disclose to whom and why they make payments promotes fraudulent, inconsistent and duplicative claiming practices that are threatening to deplete the funds finite resources.

The FACT Act will protect asbestos trusts from fraud and abuse. It will make asbestos trusts more transparent and efficient. It will require trusts to report their payees and disbursement practices to reduce the possibility of fraudulent claims and will provide the necessary oversight to spot inconsistent and duplicative claims that can deplete the trusts’ limited funds.

The FACT Act preserves personal privacy while providing adequate transparency that will preserve funds for truly qualified claimants. It deserves strong support in Congress.

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ADA Reform Bill Watered Down

By Todd Roberson on 06/21/2012 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Americans with Disabilities Act

We regret to report that the ADA reform measure joint-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Senator Bob Dutton - SB 1186 - has been significantly weakened in the latest round of amendments, which were made yesterday.

Previously the bill would have prohibited issuing a demand for money to a building owner or tenant prior to the filing of a complaint and would require an attorney to provide a document that notifies the recipient of any violation at least 30 days prior to filing a claim.

Those provisions have now been removed.

So at this point basically the bill would just require a commercial property owner to state on a lease form or rental agreement if the property being leased or rented has been inspected by a certified access specialist.

Looks like the wait for some relief from ADA litigation may continue...

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SB 1186 - ADA Reform Measure - Approved by State Senate

By Todd Roberson on 05/30/2012 @ 05:00 PM

Tags: Americans with Disabilities Act

We are happy to report that Senate Bill 1186, joint-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Senator Bob Dutton, was passed by the State Senate yesterday on a 36-0 vote.

This bill is a small step forward in the fight against abusive disabled access lawsuits. As currently written the bill would prohibit issuing a demand for money to a building owner or tenant prior to the filing of a complaint and would require an attorney to provide a document that notifies the recipient of any violation at least 30 days prior to filing any claim.

CJAC has long supported reforming California's laws regarding disabled access lawsuits. By no means does this bill fix the problem entirely and it does not provide an opportunity to fix violations before a lawsuit can be filed, but the bill is step in the right direction.

The bill will now be considered by the Assembly. We urge all who are interested to contact their Assemblymembers and ask them to support the bill. We will continue to update you on its progress.

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