Reform group takes aim at Calif. trial lawyers

Chris Rizo Sep. 1, 2009, 12:05am

John Sullivan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California's trial lawyers have been a drag on the Golden State's already struggling economy, the leader of the Civil Justice Association of California said.

CJAC President John Sullivan said Monday in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle that the trial bar, "calling themselves 'consumer attorneys' in California - are working here and in Washington on one-two punches that could hit jobs and health care."

He said in addition to forcing a "lawsuit-promoting scheme" into legislation to prevent insurance companies from arbitrarily dropping coverage for people with undisclosed health problems, plaintiffs' lawyers are taking aim at the state's landmark medical malpractice law.

"They are asking our courts to destroy California's model medical liability law, which makes sure medical negligence victims are compensated for their injuries - but limits lawyer-enriching runaway noneconomic damage awards that threaten to close community clinics," Sullivan said.

"Anyone injured through the negligence of another should have access to justice and a fair opportunity for compensation. But when a state's litigation playing field tilts toward lawyers, then jobs and the economy suffer," he said.

On the arbitration front, Sullivan castigated trial lawyers for trying to force aggrieved consumers into court, where they have to spend money on legal representation.

"Their political machine strives to preserve laws that make California a haven for speculative lawsuits and a risky place for businesses to operate and create jobs," he said. "These lawyers, for example, have blocked changes to state employment rules that are causing confusion and litigation that businesses experience in no other state."

To keep California courts pro-plaintiff, Sullivan said the trial bar has dug deep into its pockets.

"Plaintiffs' lawyers are playing their game with big dollars, not good arguments," he said. "Over the past decade, through political action committees and individual attorney and firm contributions, they have spent at least $33 million in political money in California campaigns."

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