Tort Reformers Look to November 2004 Ballot

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Nov. 21, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

After years of inaction by the legislature to reform the state's chronically abused Unfair Competition Law (UCL), a coalition of tort reformers and business interests are seeking to qualify an initiative for the November 2004 ballot. Meanwhile, trial attorney groups have threatened to put their own initiative on the same ballot to counter the reforms.

Under the current UCL, private attorneys are gaming the system by filing lawsuits where there is no individual involved, no actual harm, and no finality to one's legal exposure even after being sued for a given violation. In many cases, such violations are only technical in nature, but the legal exposure is tremendous and ongoing as multiple private attorneys line up to target the same entity for the same violation with repeated lawsuits.

The initiative would reform the UCL so that private attorneys cannot file UCL suits unless there is actual harm to the client they represent. UCL suits would also have to follow the same guidelines as class actions. Public prosecutors, such as the Attorney General and District Attorneys, would be exempt from these requirements. They alone would be allowed to stop practices when there is a threat of harm. This changes the current law that allows private attorneys to allege unfair competition on behalf of the “general public”, even when no person has been injured.

The initiative is sponsored by Californians Against Shakedown Lawsuits. The campaign is estimated to cost between $10 to $20 million.

More information and the text of the initiative can be found at www.stopshakedownlawsuits.com.

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