Tell Us Something We Don’t Know – California Is Still a Judicial Hellhole
If you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s not chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It’s fire and brimstone, because California has been named the nation’s worst judicial hellhole in the nation for the second consecutive year. In the annual edition of its Judicial Hellholes Report, the American Tort Reform Association ranked California number one, followed by Louisiana, New York City, West Virginia, Madison County, Illinois and southern Florida.
The report cites what those of us who have watched California’s legal system for years already know: the absurd lawsuits, pervasive shakedowns, and other abuses of California’s judicial system hurt the economy and cost our state jobs. And businesses and jobs aren’t the only victims. In fact, according to the report, “California’s addiction to lawsuits claims average residents as victims, too. The litigation system effectively imposed a $33.5 billion hidden tax, or $883 per resident, just for the costs of lawsuits settled thus far in 2013.” $883 would be pretty nice to have around the holiday season, don’t you think?
California remains in the top slot for many reasons, including:
California’s “Food Court”: A surge of consumer class actions targeting big food have been filed in California. By one account, more than 100 class actions were filed against food makers in 2012 alone, five times the number filed just four years ago. California is the epicenter of this litigation due to its plaintiff-friendly consumer laws and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California’s growing reputation for accepting such claims.
Disability Lawsuits: Despite minimal reform back in 2012, Americans with Disability lawsuits continue unabated throughout the state. While CALA was one of many stakeholders that helped negotiate this law, it is apparent that the same cast of plaintiff’s lawyers continues to file these lawsuits en masse. They also seem to be very focused on suing small business owners in low income areas and specifically targeting minority and immigrant entrepreneurs.
Asbestos Lawsuits: Over the years there has been a steady migration of asbestos lawyers to California from states that have enacted reasonable civil justice reform laws to give asbestos defendants a fairer shake in court. The asbestos lawsuit trend is evident in San Francisco/Oakland and Los Angeles. In 2012, a long time trend was reversed as filings of new asbestos cases in Los Angeles (292) actually exceeded such filings in San Francisco and Oakland (277). Through November 2013, new filings in Los Angeles (222) again comfortably exceeded those in the two Northern California jurisdictions (166).
Proposition 65 Lawsuits: Despite Governor Brown signing into law AB 227 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Proposition 65 lawsuits continue to be filed against businesses in California. While the new law will help some small businesses, there is still a long way to go in reforming this gold mine for plaintiffs’ lawyers. As Governor Brown said when he introduced his effort to reform the abuse, “Proposition 65 is a good law that’s helped many people, but it’s being abused by unscrupulous lawyers.”
While some minor reforms have been put in place, California still has a long way to go in enacting legal reform and end our tenure as America’s worst judicial hellhole. The trial lawyers have tremendous influence, and are constantly looking for new avenues for revenue. Moving into 2014, this report should serve as a wakeup call and get our elected officials focused on how passing legal reform can help create jobs in California. Click here to tell your elected leaders to support legal reform in California.