Lawsuit abuse isn’t merely a nagging issue of public policy, but rather an infectious disease spreading throughout California, and destroying the jobs and lives it touches. We all tend to both chuckle and roll our eyes when hearing stories of outrageous lawsuit complaints. There was the sandwich chain accused of defrauding consumers by allegedly marketing 11.75” pieces of bread as being 12” long. The end result? The trial lawyer walked away with over $500,000 while the “injured” plaintiffs received close to nothing. In another product oriented case, an energy drink company faced a lawsuit because they showed flying pigs in their ads. After digesting the drink, the plaintiff claimed to be upset since he did not sprout wings and fly as expected.
These are not victimless incidents. The money generated for greedy attorneys comes directly from our pocketbooks in the form of higher prices and decreased competition — higher prices to pay the settlement, and decreased competition as a result of bankrupt businesses. While it may be easy to ignore what happens to large, multi-national firms, they aren’t the only ones targeted.
These ridiculous suits are filed by the thousands against businesses large and small, and what’s particularly distressing, is that small business is the top target. Several areas of California law include provisions of strict liability and no opportunity to cure. In other words, even if you’re only technically in violation of the law, you have no right to correct the problem before being sued. That’s why trial lawyers target small business owners.
Fighting off claims made in a frivolous lawsuit requires significant legal resources, dollar amounts which often exceed the proposed settlement amount. That’s called a shakedown, as the only goal is extracting cash not fixing a problem. This happens when employers are sued for technical violations of labor laws, such as typing only an end date for the pay period (June 30), rather than typing June 16-30. Under California law that violation could cost a restaurant with 15-20 employees several hundred thousand dollars.
While trial lawyers treat small businesses as their own personal piggy bank, they simultaneously clog up our courts, blocking the seriously injured from getting on the calendar and accessing our justice system. This matters because there are legitimate lawsuits which need to be heard to make persons whole. Lawsuit abuse matters because it destroys jobs and devastates communities. We have experienced a few positive changes in California this year, but we need more. Together, with your help, we will turn the tide back against meritless claims.