CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

Governor Derails Plaintiffs' Attorneys Agenda

By Todd Roberson on 10/11/2011 @ 11:48 PM

Tags: Legal Climate, Legislature, Plaintiffs Lawyers

Governor Jerry Brown had until the end of Sunday to sign or veto bills introduced this year in the Legislature, and so we've now come to the end of the first year of the two-year legislative cycle. With a new Democratic Administration at the helm going into 2011, there was great uncertainty over what this Legislature and Governor would do after six years of a Republican Administration.

There were over 2,300 measures introduced this year and CJAC reviewed all of them looking for bills worthy of concern or support. We ended up closely tracking 91 of them.

In the end, of the 41 bills CJAC opposed, 35 were amended or held in the Legislature. Of the six that got to Governor Brown, he vetoed five of them. That's a 97.5% kill rate for CJAC!

As Cheryl Miller of The Recorder reports here, the Governor vetoed all three of the employment lawyer lobby's priority bills for 2011. This included:

AB 267, which would have prohibited employment contracts in which California employees to agree to the use of legal forums and laws of other states.

AB 325, which would have created a new right of civil action with one-sided plaintiff's attorney fees if an employer fails to provide an employee bereavement leave.

AB 559, which we highlighted previously and would have eliminated judges' ability to decide the amount of attorney's fees in discrimination suits with small awards.

You can also read our previous blog about plaintiffs' attorneys other priority bills that were stopped in the Legislature.

It is worth noting that CJAC has one full-time lobbyist and later in the year added a second part-time lobbyist, compared to the four lobbyists at the plaintiffs' bar association. According to the California Secretary of State's website, the plaintiffs' bar outspent CJAC on lobbying in 2011 by 8.5:1 and in 2010 by 7.5:1. With California's legal climate continuing to be ranked as one of the worst in the country and the ongoing efforts by the trial bar to continue to create litigious new laws here, there is much work to be done. However, as the numbers illustrate, despite the extensive trial attorney attempts in California, CJAC's efforts have been effective and well received in the Capitol.

Additionally, CJAC supported 16 bills, six of which were signed into law. This included a nice victory on Sunday when the Governor signed AB 1219 (Perea), which allows gas stations to ask customers for their zip codes at pay-at-the-pump stations in order to deter fraud. The bill was necessary in light of the recent California Supreme Court's recent decision in the Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma Stores, Inc. case which resulted in hundreds of class action claims against a variety of industries for requesting customers' zip codes.

For more information please visit our Legislative Center.

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More Faces of Lawsuit Abuse...

By Todd Roberson on 10/07/2011 @ 11:48 PM

Tags: Frivolous Lawsuits

As Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week wraps up, we ask you to take a few minutes to look at these stories of small business owners in California who had to suffer through an abusive lawsuit, courtesy of FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org:

Mexican restaurant targeted by baseless lawsuit

Bell, CA — When Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime del Campo first opened their small Mexican restaurant, La Casita Mexicana, in 2000, they wanted to provide a taste of Mexican culture to the residents of Bell, California, a predominantly Latino city located just outside of Los Angeles....

Woman claims repair notices caused emotional damage, sues for $500K

Los Angeles CA — Vytas Juskys and his small business manage apartment buildings and are committed to constantly upgrading and making repairs to the homes of the tenants. He thought that improving their apartments and the common areas would help his residents love where they lived; he never expected that one of them would thank him with a lawsuit...

Lawsuit over bathroom mirror 2 inches too high

Downey, CA — In the restroom of a family-owned restaurant in Southern California, employees replaced a mirror that had been destroyed by vandals. Since the new mirror was two inches shorter than the old one, it was hanging two inches too high to satisfy disabilities regulations and standards. Once he was notified of the mistake, restaurant owner Ron Piazza immediately lowered the mirror. But it was already too late. Piazza's restaurant was sued...

Landscaping company faces frivolous lawsuit

Salinas, CA — As the president of Master Landscapes in Salinas, California, Rollie Haas spends most days working with plants and designing beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, not every experience in running his business has been fun. "I had a lawsuit from a former friend of mine," Rollie says...

Customer sues, wants pool free rather than fixed

Santa Ana, CA — Danny Myers is the owner of Vintage Pools and Spas in Santa Ana, California. "I've been in the business for almost 30 years. We build pools, spas, anything outside - yardscape, lighting, irrigation, patio covers, fireplaces, barbeques, anything outside the house." Danny's company was dealt a financial blow, however, when a customer tried to turn a depth mistake into a free pool...

San Francisco coffee shop targeted by frivolous ADA lawsuit

San Francisco, CA — When Roberto Guerrero and his family emigrated from war-torn Nicaragua in the 1980s, they hoped to share their family's love of coffee with the residents of San Francisco...

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Study: 76% of Docs Provide Unneeded Care For Fear of Lawsuits

By Todd Roberson on 09/28/2011 @ 11:48 PM

Tags: Medical Liability/MICRA

A study published in Tuesday's edition of Archives of Internal Medicine highlights one troubling cause of rising healthcare costs: doctors providing more medical care than is necessary because they fear malpractice lawsuits.

Doctors admit that they do this in the new nationwide survey. 76% of doctors surveyed said fear of malpractice lawsuits prompted them to practice more aggressive medicine. 42% of doctors said their own patients were receiving too much medical care.

The study, conducted by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Veterans Administration Outcomes Group, can be found here. You can also read a summary in the Los Angeles Times here.

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NYC's Top Lawyer: "Anti-Government" Tort Laws Costing Too Much

By Todd Roberson on 09/27/2011 @ 11:48 PM

Tags: Legal Reform, Legal Climate

Last Thursday New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the top lawyer for the city, highlighted the impact that lawsuit abuse has on local government and called for New York tort laws to be changed "to even the playing field." New York City paid out $561 million in tort and related cases in the 2011 fiscal year.

One of the problems is New York's law on joint and several liability. Even if the city is only 1% at fault in an accident, often times it must pay for all of the plaintiff's damages, including pain and suffering.

New York should follow California's lead on joint and several liability. In 1986, California voters approved Proposition 51, which was sponsored by CJAC and eliminated joint and several liability for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. These damages are now paid based on a proportional basis by those at fault. Actual damages must still be paid in full regardless of how much a defendant was at fault so that the injured person is fully compensated.

Local governments are a popular target in joint and several liability cases because plaintiff's attorneys see a deep pocket they can take advantage of if they can establish that a local government entity is even 1% at fault. That means taxpayer money going to plaintiff's attorneys rather than vital public services, something most local governments cannot afford right now.

Read more on Cardozo's comments here.

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Another Survey Ranks CA as Worst for Business; Brown Veto Will Keep it From Getting Worse

By Todd Roberson on 09/26/2011 @ 11:48 PM

Tags: Legal Climate

A report was released this month by Development Counsellors International (DCI), an economic development consulting firm, titled "Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing", in which DCI surveys corporate executives on their perceptions of state business climates and how economic development organizations can build a favorable image. Not surprisingly, they find that California has some work to do in this regard.

This is the sixth time since 1996 that DCI has conducted this survey, and California has been ranked 50th since 2002. This year 70% of respondents put California in their bottom three states in terms of business climate. California and New York swapped the first and second place spots on this list since DCI first conducted the survey in 1996.

You can find more info on this year's report here.

California continues to rank at or near the bottom of states in business and legal climate studies. Earlier this year, a survey released by Chief Executive magazine also found California to be the worst state in the nation for business - for the seventh year in a row. And last year, the Institute for Legal Reform ranked California 46th in its State Liability Systems Ranking Study.

Fortunately, we received some welcome news today that will at least keep our litigation climate from getting worse. Governor Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 559, one of the more egregious proposals this year backed by plaintiffs' attorneys.

This bill would have taken away judges' discretion to reduce or deny attorneys' fees in unlimited civil cases when plaintiffs recover less than $25,000 (the minimum to qualify as an unlimited civil case). The issue arose in a case where a plaintiff received an $11,500 award but his attorney asked for $870,000 in fees. The judge denied that motion, and by vetoing AB 559, Governor Brown has preserved judges' ability to decide what amount of attorneys' fees are appropriate.

Cases where the amount in dispute is between $7,500 and $25,000 are supposed to be filed as limited civil cases. This limits the time and cost of litigation compared to unlimited civil cases, so we should maintain the deterrent to plaintiff's attorneys inappropriately filing unlimited civil cases.

You can read the veto message here. Thank you Governor Brown!

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