Legislative Update: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
CALA works with the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) to support legal reform in the legislature. For the 2013-2014 legislative season, CALA and CJAC have seen some attempts at legislative reforms – and some bills that would expand opportunities for abusive lawsuits. Although we are only half way through the session, things are looking pretty good. Overall CALA, CJAC and various coalition partners have helped stem the tide of bad legislation. Here is a brief overview of some of the highlights.
AB 2494 (Cooley) aims to deter costly and unnecessary legal tactics by reviving a law that allowed judges to award attorney’s fees when litigants employ bad-faith tactics in litigation aimed to harass and delay. This bill moved off the Assembly Floor with no opposition and is heading to the Senate.
SB 1381 (Evans) was an attempt to create a California-only food labeling system requiring packaged and raw agricultural foodstuff containing ingredients with genetically modified organisms to be labeled with the words “Genetically Engineered.” This bill is simlar to Prop. 37 in 2012, and like Prop. 37 was supported by the plaintiffs’ attorneys and would have resulted in abusive lawsuits against the food industry. It failed in the State Senate by a vote of 19-16. This was a huge win and a big thank you needs to be made to key legislators who abstained and voted no.
One bill that drew a lot of attention in this state and would create more lawsuits is AB 1522 (Gonzalez). This bill would require employers to provide 3 days of paid sick leave, but more importantly it would incentivize additional private lawsuits with one-sided attorney’s fee awards. CJAC and a large coalition fought this provision, and it was amended to address CJAC’s concerns.
AB 2361 (Jones) would have provided more reform to the area of shakedown Prop. 65 lawsuits, but was withdrawn before it was heard in committee.
In terms of ADA lawsuit reform, there were two bills, AB 1848 (Allen) and AB 1885 (Bigelow) that would have provided small corrective action periods to business owners. Both bills were defeated in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but it was refreshing to see that Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D) voted for both of the bills. There is an enormous problem with ADA lawsuit abuse in this state and it is not going away.
SB 1188 (Jackson) aims to dismantle existing warranty law and encourage class action lawsuits. It would allow plaintiffs to sue long after a warranty expires for any problem with a product – even one related to age or normal wear and tear. As you might guess, this is a priority bill for the trial attorneys. It has passed out of the State Senate, and we need to stop this bill in the Assembly.
If you are interested in finding out what other bills related to legal reform were introduced this session, go to www.cjac.org to see all of the bills they are tracking. Or go to www.cala.com and become a supporter. We will make sure you receive alerts when key bills are up for important votes. After all, California needs jobs, not lawsuits.