California named No. 1 'judicial hellhole' by civil liability reform group

By John Breslin | Dec 8, 2018

California has been named No. 1 in an advocacy organization's list of what it describes as "judicial hellholes."

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) described the state as a "perennial judicial hellhole." It was No. 1 three times in recent years, according to the group.

“California judges and legislators expand liability at almost every given opportunity,” ATRA president Tiger Joyce said.

“This year, the court adopted ‘innovator liability,’ a novel and expansive theory concocted by the trial bar that has been rejected by more than 35 state and federal courts around the country," Joyce said.

"It holds brand-name drug manufacturers responsible for injuries caused by a generic drug, and serves only to disrupt innovation and hamper investment."

In its report, ATRA, set up in 1986 and funded mostly by corporations, said the laws and court decisions in the state have "fostered abusive 'no-injury' litigation."

"As a result, the state has become a magnet for class actions targeting food and beverage marketing and disability access lawsuits," ATRA said.

The organization also took aim at the state's new data privacy law, which it described as "plaintiffs’ lawyer gold and is expected to lead to extensive lawsuit abuse."

ATRA also decried the use of California Proposition 65, under which labels must include information on carcinogenic or otherwise toxic elements within products.

A troublesome part of the law allows private citizens, advocacy groups and attorneys to sue on behalf of the state and collect a portion of the civil fees, creating an incentive for the plaintiffs "to create these types of lawsuits," ATRA said.

"Each year, they send thousands of notices to companies threatening Prop 65 litigation and demanding a settlement. A search of notices on the California Attorney General’s website shows that the number of these threatened lawsuits has tripled over the past decade. Food and beverage companies are among the prime targets."

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