The American Tort Reform Foundation’s annual “Judicial Hellholes” report is out and once again California is one of the worst states in the country. While the Golden State is often No. 1 on the list, this time it was beaten out by particularly bad years in Georgia and Pennsylvania. However, the report shows California certainly holds its own as a state with a deplorable civil justice system.
“Baseless Proposition 65 lawsuits thrive in courts and the volume of litigation continues to skyrocket,” the report notes, referring to California’s requiring disclosures of the presence of even the most insignificant amount of certain chemicals. “Small businesses are weighed down by frivolous Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) and Americans with Disability Act (ADA) accessibility lawsuits.”
As the report documents, California is the host of more than half of the country’s ADA lawsuits, with serial litigators going up and down the state filing often-frivolous lawsuits. The report highlights the example of one plaintiff who was found by a judge to have “‘travelled to Redwood City for the purpose of finding establishments to sue’ and that he is ‘not credible’ given his history as a serial plaintiff.”
In a separate case, the same plaintiff was hit with a $35,000 sanction in a case involving alleged ADA violations at a Peet’s Coffee shop.
Then there’s California’s status as a state with a favorable system for “no-injury” class action lawsuits against food and beverage companies. These include lawsuits over whether or not candy boxes “could have fit more candy” or not, for example. Ultimately, these kinds of lawsuits prove more lucrative for the lawyers handling the cases than consumers.
Whether violations are found or not, these kinds of lawsuits do economic damage across the state.
“Lawsuit abuse and excessive tort costs wipe out billions of dollars of economic activity annually. California residents pay a “tort tax” of $1,917.89 per person and 748,775 jobs are lost each year, according to a recent study by The Perryman Group,” the report notes. “If California enacted specific reforms targeting lawsuit abuse, the state would increase its gross product by over $75.5 billion.”
California’s civil justice system has long been a source of these sorts of problems.
The civil justice system should play an important role in our society, but it’s routinely being gamed by lawyers and plaintiffs who are just looking for a payday.
California’s reputation on this front has long been a laughing stock. We’d like to see that changed in the years ahead. We’re not counting on it, though.