Legal association president: SB632 lacks attorney accountability

By Angela Underwood | Sep 11, 2017

SACRAMENTO --The Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) president argues the plaintiff bar's attempt to limit civil discovery asbestos deposition hours lacks attorney accountability.

“It fails to consider the responsibility of the plaintiff’s attorney, especially when the attorney sues every possible defendant, without properly investigating the case,” John Doherty told the The Northern California Record in an email regarding SB632 that was introduced by Sen. Bill Monning in February.

Amended to limit asbestos deposition hours from 20 hours to seven in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, SB632 has a had few modifications since introduced at the beginning of the year. The most recent was Sept. 5. But no matter how you put it, according to the former vice president of politics and policy and general counsel for TechNet, it is not good.

In light of asbestos plaintiffs often filing against 50-plus defendants, Doherty said the plight of seriously ill plaintiffs is an issue that should be taken seriously by the courts. “In California there are already procedures in place to limit the hardship a lawsuit may cause a plaintiff undergoing hardship,” he added. 

“Unfortunately, this bill has been focused on severe limits on deposition time, even though the method of discovery is often the quickest and most efficient method of collecting information,” Doherty said. He said in attempting to decrease the number of hours that plaintiffs can face depositions by default may not allow all defendants to properly depose plaintiffs.

"Unfortunately, asbestos cases are generally decided based upon facts related to exposure," he said. "Given the large number of products and the fact intensive nature of exposure cases, in almost all filed cases, limiting the time to seven hours would be insufficient for even a few defendants if the facts of the exposure were differing.” Doherty said.

As for the continually growing asbestos compensation commercials, they will continue run regardless, according to Doherty. 

“Despite the fact that asbestos exposure has dropped to minimal, rare occurrences, the number of asbestos filings continues to grow,” he said. “Recent cases have established liability for ‘take-home’ secondary exposure scenarios that are even more difficult to investigate. As these suits grow, the need for appropriate due process protections also grow.”

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