CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

Apple Valley Man Sues Over 100 Businesses Over Disability Violations

Posted on 05/18/2015 @ 10:00 AM

An Apple Valley man, claiming to be disabled, has sued more than 100 businesses for Americans with Disabilities Act access violations. However, video evidence has emerged indicating that the man was not disabled at all, reports ABC7 Los Angeles, in a recent investigative report.

Carl Barnum III says that he is disabled and has sued over 100 business owners for thousands of dollars each, claiming their violations of the ADA kept him from having complete access to their businesses.

Videos shot of Barnum at a dog show, trotting around the ring, kneeling, and twirling, all while handling a giant breed of dog called a Leonberger, may spell the end of his alleged career as a professional plaintiff. The dogs are reportedly very strong and can weigh well over 100 pounds according to the Leonberger Club of America.

He's taken in roughly $360,000, with another $135,000 going to his lawyer. Critics say Barnum is nothing more than a "serial plaintiff," a person who makes a living filing bogus lawsuits.

"It's deceitful, it's fraudulent, it's manipulative and it's theft," said attorney Lisa Salisbury. She told the Eyewitness News reporter that the 61-year-old may have aches and pains, but the video, photos and other evidence bolster her belief that he is not truly disabled.

To read the full report, click here.

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Senate Bill 67 Becomes 2-Year Bill, Galgiani Calls for Support

Posted on 05/14/2015 @ 10:00 AM

State Senator Cathleen Galgiani comments in a recent op-ed posted in the Lodi News, that although the problem of predatory ADA access lawsuits has gained visibility, her bill, SB 67, and others introduced this year to provide relief to businesses, face resistance in the Legislature.

SB 67 would exempt small businesses from statutory damage liability in connection with construction-related accessibility claims. The bill would also extend the period for correcting construction-related violations resulting in claims from 60 days to 120 days of being served with the complaint, and reduce a defendant’s minimum statutory damage liability to $1,000.

“Similar legislation by several of my Assembly colleagues of both parties have been gutted, quashed or opposed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee this year,” the Senator notes.

Based on her assessment that her bill most likely would not pass out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senator has decided to make SB 67 a 2-year bill, allowing more time to organize broad support for the measure to move forward in 2016.

Galgiani additionally notes that she would like to hear from businesses or property owners who have been victims of these lawsuits or threats of lawsuits.

Letters or emails of support from individuals, businesses and organizations that are concerned about ADA lawsuit abuse may contact the Senator at her Modesto office: State Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, 1010 10th St., Suite 5800, Modesto, CA 95354; or email senator.galgiani@senate.ca.gov.

Senator Galgiani represents the 5th Senate District of California, which includes Lodi.

To read Senator Galgiani’s op-ed, click here.

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Brad Pitt Takes On The $9 Billion Shakedown Against Chevron

Posted on 05/06/2015 @ 10:00 AM

Beating out George Clooney, Brad Pitt recently won film rights to a book covering the $9 billion shakedown of Chevron in Ecuador, a story they believe big enough to be made into a movie.

"Law of the Jungle," a 2014 book by Paul Barrett, tells a story about the world's biggest corporate shakedown: “the multibillion, fraud-ridden, bribe-laden, media-driven tale of a left-wing lawyer's effort to use Ecuador's corrupt justice system” to wring billions out of the oil company, reports Investor’s Business Daily.

The case was based on claims that Chevron was responsible for rain forest pollution in Ecuador's Amazonian rain forest and sought $18 billion.

A cottage industry devoted to maligning Chevron cropped up and for 22 years, they fought back. Last year, the oil company finally won after U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan denounced the whole operation as "fraudulent" and ordered that no judgment against Chevron be enforced.

To read the Investor’s Business Daily story, here.

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Small victory in ADA lawsuit reform

Posted on 04/27/2015 @ 10:00 AM

Assembly Bill 54 (Olsen) is one of several current bills addressing a wave of frivolous ADA access lawsuits hitting counties across the state, with about 60 businesses in Stanislaus and Merced counties alone. Recent amendments taken on the bill in the Assembly Judiciary Committee watered it down, but Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen called it a “first step in the right direction.”

AB 54, as originally written, would have given companies two months to fix ADA violations. Such “right to cure” language, with varying amounts of time, is also found in Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 52 and in Senator Cathleen Galgiani’s Senate Bill 67, two other pieces of legislation currently working their way through the legislative process.

Disability activists argued aggressively against Olsen’s right to cure language. The language was deleted in favor of a provision giving companies a $250 tax credit toward the cost of hiring a state-certified inspector to survey conditions at a business and suggest changes.

Although frustrated, Olsen noted that the committee vote is the first movement toward reform in years. AB 54 is scheduled for an Assembly Revenue and Taxation hearing in May.

To read the Modesto Bee story, click here.

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The Perils of Overwarning

Posted on 04/23/2015 @ 10:00 AM

By: Kim Stone, CJAC President

We have become a community of warners.

My car carries a warning sticker that the vehicle may contain chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm. The parking lot where I park each morning at work has the same warning signage, as does the coffee shop nearest to my office. That’s three Proposition 65 warning signs and I haven’t even started my work day.

Actually, I encountered several other warnings before the day even began. The new dishwasher comes with a host of warnings, which I ignored while doing the breakfast dishes. There’s a warning on the electrical plug of the blender, which I ignored while making my son a smoothie. There are warnings in my car’s user manual, which maybe I reviewed right after we bought it (or maybe not, I can’t remember.)

Who do we have to thank for all these warning labels? The lawyers, of course! Proposition 65 warning labels have been a gravy train for a dozen or so California lawyers and so-called non-profits. In 2013, 22 plaintiffs and interest groups filed all of the Proposition 65 lawsuits in California, resulting in a total settlement payment amount of over $17 million dollars, of which over $12 million dollars or 73% went to the lawyers for attorney’s fees and costs!! 2013 wasn’t an unusual year. The same thing happened in 2012, when 17 plaintiffs’ lawyers or organizations received settlements worth over $20 million, taking over $14 million, or 71%, in attorney’s fees and costs. All so that we can have even more Proposition 65 warning signs.

Some of the crazier warning signs I have seen include a warning on a baby stroller that advise: “Remove child before folding.” A warning label on a children’s scooter advises: “This product moves when used.” There are toilet brushes that advise, “Do not use for personal hygiene,” in case you were tempted to brush your teeth with it; and a household iron that warns people to take the clothes off their body before ironing them. (For more funny warning labels, check out the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch Wacky Warning Labels contests.)

While we can chuckle at the stupidity of the people who did the things that led to a lawyer advising someone not to iron the shirt while wearing it, overwarnings have serious and actual costs.

All of us pay more for products as a result of frivolous lawsuits. Some company had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending each of those frivolous lawsuits and then had to put up that sign or add that label to the package. And I can’t help but wonder what those idiotic signs are doing to our collective common sense – or lack thereof.

Additionally, when we see too many meaningless warning signs, we learn to ignore all warning signs, even the rare one that might make sense.

I’ve been thinking about the problem of overwarning labels recently, because of a bill in the Sacramento legislature to require warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages. This bill would require a warning label on sodas and juice drinks that warns: Drinking beverages with added sugar can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. And, you guessed it - the businesses that don’t put that warning up will get hit with a lawsuit and attorney’s fees, much like the Proposition 65 scheme.

The city of San Francisco is taking things a step further, considering a warning ordinance with substantial administrative penalties for violations.

Sure, sodas aren’t health food, but most people realize they are not. If we continue down this path of overwarning, even fewer people will heed the signs.

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