Legislation

Consumer Attorneys of California is the first line of defense in the state Capitol and at the ballot box to protect consumer legal rights. Each year bills are introduced by big tobacco, insurance, HMO and other corporations to restrict or eliminate your legal rights. CAOC is there to fight such "tort reform" measures to ensure that every Californian has access to the courts. We also sponsor legislation to protect consumer legal rights and work through the state budgetary process to ensure adequate funding of California's civil justice system.

2022 CAOC Legislative Proposal Submission Form (CAOC Members Only, must be logged in)
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2021 Legislation

CAOC 2021 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

•    PRIORITY NUMBER ONE:  EFFICIENCY IN THE COURTS
SB 241 AND SB 233 (UMBERG)


Civil courts have been devastated by the impact of COVID-19, and this crisis must be addressed immediately to ensure access to justice for all Californians. It is unacceptable to have justice depend upon where you live; some counties have met the challenge of continuing essential court service during this pandemic and others have not.

Our number one priority in 2021 will be making the courts efficient and effective during this time of COVID so that civil litigants and their families can get timely justice. Trial dates have been delayed for over a year with no end in sight. Individuals are struggling without access to the recovery they need to pay for medical treatment. Those seeking their lost earnings are further squeezed into financial hardship due to pandemic job loss and housing struggles. The elderly and sick are dying as their trial dates get pushed and children cannot get the court stamp of approval when their cases settle. There are significant issues with delays in hearing law and motion that should be avoidable with remote hearings.

In response, CAOC is sponsoring two bills, SB 241 (Umberg) and SB 233 (Umberg), that will address court efficiency and civil procedure issues. In order to ensure a minimum level of justice and functionality in our courts we are seeking the following:  

  1. Emergency action to reduce the severe civil backlog. Gov. Newsom recently announced a budget restoration of $200 million for the courts for the 2021 fiscal year. While very appreciative of this restoration, CAOC is requesting a “crash program” to use the restored monies to attack the horrific civil backlog. The civil backlog is beyond a crisis point and it will only get worse without a coordinated statewide approach.
  2. A requirement that statutory preference trials be set in counties that are also conducting criminal trials. We have heard horror stories, regardless of county, about preference motions not being ruled upon or preference cases not proceeding with clients dying as they wait for justice, their rights often dying with them.
  3. Mandated statewide deadlines so litigants can promptly resolve issues in law and motion. Justice should not depend upon which county a case is filed.
  4. A requirement for fast tracked hearings on uncontested minors compromise petitions.

SB 233 fact sheet

•    HUMAN SUFFERING DAMAGES:  DELAY UNTIL THEY DIE
SB 447 (LAIRD)


Under current California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.34, defendants benefit from court delays, and victims' rights to damages die with them. When the California Legislature enacted laws on survival damages in 1961, the insurance industry lobbied to add language extinguishing damages for non-economic damages when a plaintiff dies. The legislative history of CCP 377.34 shows that the legislature was strongly in favor of preserving these damages, but added the language due to industry pressure.

The current law is especially devastating when the plaintiff is elderly, a child, a stay-at-home parent, disabled, lower income, or anyone else whose damages are not primarily based on how much they earn.

A wrongdoer should not be given a discount because an injured plaintiff dies of an unrelated illness, like cancer, before their case is finished. Our current law also creates a perverse incentive for defendants to delay cases and harass ill plaintiffs in the hopes that the plaintiff will die before trial, creating a significant financial benefit for the wrongdoer.

Worse, COVID-19 has amplified the effects of this unjust law. Courts are forced to set trial dates with long delays – and even to ignore preference statutes that are supposed to give dying and elderly plaintiffs a speedy trial date. Defendants take every advantage of these delays, refusing to agree to bench trials and then objecting to virtual trials, in the hopes that the plaintiffs will die before trial.

California’s law is old, a vestige of archaic tort law policy that all claims against a defendant died with the plaintiff. This rule does not exist in 45 other states and D.C. because it is unfair and acts to reduce the deterrent effect of tort law. At a time when corporate defendants and insurers delay cases, as our court system struggles (often taking years to get cases to trial), and as COVID shuts down our entire judicial system, it is grossly unfair that when victims seeking justice die, so do their damages. Senator John Laird has introduced SB 447, co-sponsored by CAOC and the Consumer Federation of California, to address this injustice.

SB 447 fact sheet and victim stories

•    CIVIL RIGHTS:  STOPPING THE ILLEGAL USE OF FORCE
SB 2 (BRADFORD/ATKINS)


CAOC will continue its efforts to stop the use of illegal force and to correct California’s civil rights law (the Bane Act) so it will have effective remedies for victims of illegal use of force. Senator Steve Bradford has introduced SB 2 which will be amended to create a program to decertify law enforcement that violate the law and to provide equity via the restoration of legal rights when violations are proven.

Californians who have had their civil rights violated turn to California law, known as the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, enacted in 1987. The Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civil Code § 52.1, is California’s most broadly applicable civil rights law. The Bane Act forbids anyone from interfering by force or by threat of violence with your federal or state constitutional or statutory rights. These rights include, for example, the right to due process, equal protection, and protection from bodily restraint or harm.

The Bane Act has increasingly become the only vehicle of redress for those whose civil rights have been violated as federal law has become so weakened. In federal court, holding officers accountable is nearly impossible due to the doctrine of qualified immunity, so Californians must generally solely rely on the Bane Civil Rights Act. Qualified immunity is a federal doctrine that shields government officials from legal responsibility for civil rights violations. Originally, federal qualified immunity was an attempt to provide some protection from civil lawsuits for law enforcement officers in an attempt to balance the need to do their jobs with the need to hold bad actors accountable. Courts (especially with President Trump appointees), however, have taken this core principle and interpreted it in such a way that it is nearly impossible to hold bad actors accountable under the federal civil rights act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the United States Supreme Court’s own words, qualified immunity is an officer-friendly doctrine that protects “all but the plainly incompetent of those who knowingly violate the law.”  Therefore, it is imperative that California state law fully protect those whose civil rights have been violated.

SB 2 fact sheet
Sample SB 2 support letter

•    HOLDING ONLINE MARKETPLACES ACCOUNTABLE
AB 1182 (STONE)


AB 1182 (Stone) will hold online marketplaces like Amazon to the same legal standard as traditional brick-and-mortar businesses when internet retailers place dangerous products in the stream of commerce. AB 1182 will ensure that California law does not continue to subsidize online commerce, which has a spotty product safety record, at the expense of injured Californians. It is jointly sponsored by Consumer Attorneys of California, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Western States Council.

AB 1182 fact sheet

•    PROTECTING EMPLOYEES AND ELDERS
AB 849 (REYES) AND SB 331 (LEYVA)


CAOC will also prioritize two bills related to protecting elders and workers. AB 849 (Reyes) will overturn the horrible California Supreme Court decision Jarman v. HCR Manorcare, holding that statutory damages in residents’ lawsuits alleging violations of regulatory resident rights are capped at $500 per lawsuit, not $500 per violation. Under the Long Term Care Act, a current or former resident may bring a civil action against a skilled nursing or intermediate care facility that violates any specified rights of the patient. Since 1982, the law states that facilities have to pay up to $500 to residents for violations of their rights. In 2020, the state Supreme Court held that the maximum a victim could recover was $500, regardless of how many of these violations the resident suffered. (Jarman v. HCR Manorcare, 10 Cal. 5th 375)

The purpose of the residents’ private right of action was to empower residents to enforce their own rights critical to their dignity and well-being at a time when state enforcement was in decline. Forty years later, state enforcement has never been worse and complaints against facilities are at an all-time high. At a time when the need for resident rights has never been greater, the Supreme Court has rendered rights enforcement toothless. Facilities now routinely send $500 checks to resident victims as a “pass” to commit rampant violations. Nursing homes are now free from consequences for resident rights violations, while vulnerable residents are left unprotected and disregarded.

As Justice Cuéllar wrote in his Jarman dissent, capping damages at $500 regardless of the number or severity of violations is “plainly insufficient to fulfill the statute’s purpose to deter and remedy violations of nursing home patients’ rights.”

AB 849 fact sheet

We will also prioritize SB 331 (Leyva) to expand current protections against secret settlements to now cover settlement agreements involving all forms of harassment or discrimination. SB 331 would also expand the prohibition on overly broad confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in employment agreements to cover workers who are required to sign these types of clauses as part of a severance agreement.

SB 331 fact sheet

2020 Legislation


HOLDING ONLINE MARKETPLACES ACCOUNTABLE

AB 3262 (Stone) – Would hold online marketplaces like Amazon to the same legal standard as traditional brick-and-mortar businesses when internet retailers place dangerous products in the stream of commerce. This bill will ensure that California law does not continue to subsidize online commerce, which has a spotty product safety record, at the expense of injured Californians. Jointly sponsored by Consumer Attorneys of California, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Western States Council. Fact sheet (PDF)  STATUS: Approved by Assembly, pulled by author before final state Senate vote.

STEMMING POLICE BRUTALITY

SB 731 (Bradford) – Amid endless revelations of police abuse against people of color, this bill seeks to curb police brutality by allowing for the decertification of violence-prone officers fired for misconduct so they are not rehired by other departments and by bolstering the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, which as been undercut by bad case law in the three decades since its legislative approval. Those changes include requiring a proof that an officer's misconduct involved general intent, not the higher legal threshold of specific intent, which requires proving in court that they consciously intended to violent a brutality victim's civil rights. This bill is sponsored by sponsored by a coalition of organizations pursuing police reform including the American Civil Liberties Union. Fact sheet (PDF)  STATUS: Not brought up for a vote. CAOC response  

E-SERVICE OF PROCESS

SB 1146 (Umberg) – Enshrines use of web video for remote depositions and email service of process to reduce the backlog of cases anticipated even after the COVID-19 pandemic finally ends. STATUS: Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, became effective Sept. 18, 2020.

IMPROVING THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LAW

AB 2723 (Chiu) – This civil procedure bill would give attorneys for parties in civil litigation the ability to sign a stipulated settlement on the litigants behalf. STATUS: Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, became effective Jan. 1, 2021.

MODERNIZING OUTDATED MINIMUM AUTO INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS

AB 3311 (Grayson) – Would update the state's minimum auto insurance requirements, which have not changed in more than a half century. The current rate of $15,000 for an accident with one victim, $30,000 for multiple victims and $5,000 for property damage would be increased to $30,000 for one victim, $60,000 for multiple victims and $25,000 for property damage. The state's current minimum requirements have not been adjusted for inflation in the 53 years since the law was established in 1967. Fact sheet (PDF)  STATUS: Delayed by health crisis until 2021 

STOPPING COURT SECRECY TO BETTER PROTECT CALIFORNIANS

SB 1135 (Hertzberg) – To better protect all Californians from the threat of defective products or other safety hazards, this bill would curb use of secrecy orders and agreements in civil cases that would have the effect of hiding hazards from the public. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Delayed by health crisis until 2021
 

2019 Legislation


PROTECTING VICTIMS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT

AB 1510 (Reyes) – University of Southern California students who fell victim to Dr. George Tyndall, the campus gynecologist accused of molesting hundreds of women in his care over nearly three decades, will have a fresh opportunity to hold the physician and university accountable under this bill. More than 600 of his former patients have filed civil lawsuits against Dr. Tyndall and USC for sexual battery and related sexual abuse, but USC will likely seek dismissal of these assault cases, claiming they are time-barred by the state's statute of limitations. Thus, AB 1510 is vital to giving these women an opportunity to have their day in court. Fact sheet (PDF)  STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

AB 51 (Gonzalez) – Would ensure that a worker is not forced into arbitration and stripped of the right to take harassment, discrimination and labor claims to court. Forcing workers to sign arbitration waivers lets companies keep harassment, discrimination and other labor violations out of court, effectively cloaking them in secrecy and, in some cases, allowing serial harassers and repeat violators to continue their conduct for years. Such arbitration contract conditions should be voluntary, not the result of coercion or simply as a requirement for a prospective California worker to get a job. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

AB 9 (Reyes, Friedman, Waldron) – The SHARE Act (Stopping Harassment and Reporting Extension) will extend the time for filing harassment and discrimination claims under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This bill would extend the filing requirement from one year to three years, allowing victims additional time to seek redress and  making it more consistent with the filing time limits for other actions.  Low wage earners are particularly harmed by the short filing time. Most low wage workers who suffered harassment or discrimination are not aware of their legal rights and do not know that that they are time barred if they do not file within a year. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

PROMOTING SAFETY OF SCOOTERS, BIKES AND OTHER SHARED-MOBILITY DEVICES

AB 1286 (Muratsuchi) – E-scooters and bikes have appeared in major California cities often overnight – leaving municipalities in the dust as they attempt to catch up and create regulations. What results is a patchwork of different laws and regulations. Meanwhile, riders and pedestrians are at risk. Four scooter riders have died and many riders and pedestrians have suffered injuries. Although scooters provide an eco-friendly, low-cost transportation option, the lack of uniform consumer protections is problematic. Riders leave the scooters everywhere, creating a mess and tripping hazard. There are public safety concerns, as riders tend to not wear helmets as well as drive and park on sidewalks, creating a hazard for the elderly, children and people with disabilities.This bill will enact minimum state protections requiring e-mobility companies to carry minimum insurance to protect riders and third parties, prohibit them from waiving consumer legal rights, and require that cities and counties adopt and enforce safety rules. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Approved by Assembly. Will be taken up by state Senate in 2020.

PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE ELDERLY IN EMERGENCIES

SB 314 (Dodd) – During the 2017 Wine Country wildfires, about 100 elderly residents at two Santa Rosa care homes were abandoned as flames closed in. One of the homes burned to the ground, and as many as 20 of the elderly residents likely would have died if not for the heroic rescue efforts by family members and emergency responders. SB 314 will update the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act to include "abandonment" as an enhanced remedy that qualifies for civil action. By making this change, nursing homes and other senior facilities will be on notice: Don't leave the frail elderly behind in a life-threatening emergency. Fact sheet (PDF)  STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.  

STOPPING COMPANIES TRYING TO STALL THE LEGAL PROCESS

SB 707 (Wieckowski, Hertzberg) – Individuals who have been forced to submit to mandatory arbitration to resolve an employment or consumer dispute would be provided with procedural options and remedies under this bill when a company stalls or obstructs the arbitration proceeding by refusing to pay the required fees. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

PROHIBITING RACIAL PROFILING ON DAMAGE AWARDS

SB 41 (Hertzberg) – Prohibits the use of racial- and gender-biased data in determining civil damage awards for personal injury or wrongful death actions, ensuring women and people of color are not deprived of fair compensation. Fact sheet (PDF) STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

IMPROVING THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LAW

SB 370 (Umberg) – This legislation would create a more efficient standard for Requests for Production of Documents. Specifically the bill will require the documents to be organized and labeled to correspond with the categories in the demand.This bill is a placeholder bill for substantive civil procedure changes to improve the everyday practice. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

PROTECTING DYING ASBESTOS VICTIMS

SB 645 (Monning) – Would protect dying mesothelioma and silicosis victims by limiting their deposition time. Fact sheet (PDF) STATUS:  Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

 

2018 Legislation
 

ENDING PROTECTION OF SEXUAL PREDATORS

AB 3080 (Gonzalez) – This bill will ensure that workers are not forced to waive their right to take harassment, discrimination, and labor claims against their boss to a court or state agency.  Forcing workers to sign these waivers lets companies keep harassment, discrimination, and labor violation claims out of court, effectively cloaking them in secrecy and, in some cases, allowing serial harassers and repeat violators to continue their conduct for years. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

AB 1870 (Reyes, Friedman, Waldron) – The SHARE Act (Stopping Harassment and Reporting Extension) will extend the time for filing harassment and discrimination claims under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This bill would extend the filing requirement from one year to three years, allowing victims additional time to seek redress and  making it more consistent with the filing time limits for other actions.  Low wage earners are particularly harmed by the short filing time. Most low wage workers who suffered harassment or discrimination are not aware of their legal rights and do not know that that they are time barred if they do not file within a year. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

SB 820 (Leyva) – Known at the STAND Act (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures), this bill will end protection of sexual predators by banning secret settlements, the confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements, in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault and sex discrimination. This measure was sparked by the case of Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein, accused by at least 80 women of sexual misconduct, including rape, sexual assault and harassment. His decades-long predatory behavior was kept secret in part due to the legal instruments that allowed him to hide behind the guise of confidentiality that barred victims from ever sharing their stories. This allows repeat offenders to continue to harass while silencing victims. By shining a bright light on this wrongdoing, the STAND Act will have a deterrent effect.  Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

AB 1867 (Reyes) – Would require California businesses with 50 or more employees to keep records of employee complaints of sexual harassment for 10 years from the date of filing. This will make it harder for employers to conceal a history of harassment by an employee and provide evidence that an employer was aware of previous issues with an employee’s behavior. Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

INTERNET DATA PRIVACY AND PROTECTIONS

AB 375 (Chau, Hertzberg, Dodd) – Enacts the nation's most sweeping data privacy and protection measures. Among other data privacy protections, it allows consumers to insist that companies not sell their personal information and requires parents to give their approval before a company sells data about a minor, among other protections. To act as a deterrent against data breaches, companies would face civil legal liability and potential action by the state Attorney General if they failed to take adequate and available steps to protect consumer data from internet pirates. Bill information  STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.  

SB 1121 (Dodd) – This measure came in the aftermath of a series of data breaches that amplified with last year's massive Equifax scandal, which hit more than 145 million U.S. consumers (59% of the U.S. adult population). It's legislative intent was largely amended into AB 375 (see above). SB 1121 was amended to serve as a follow-up bill to AB 375. Bill information   STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

PATIENTS RIGHT TO KNOW

SB 1448 (Hill) – This measure would require doctors placed on probation for a serious offense after July 2019 to notify their patients of their discipline prior to the patient's first visit. It applies only to doctors on probation for offenses such as sexual abuse or misconduct, drug or alcohol abuse, a criminal conviction involving harm to patient health or safety, or inappropriate prescribing. SB 1448 would correct the problem with doctors who have histories of sexual assault or other serious misconduct hiding their misdeeds for years or in some cases even decades without their patients knowing. The recent case against Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted after decades of abusing the athletes under his care, highlights the need to protect patients when regulators fail to act. Fact sheet (PDF)  STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

HELPING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIMS ACHIEVE JUSTICE

SB 1053 (Beall) – Codifies and clarifies the law that governs when a victim of childhood sexual abuse may file a claim against a public entity and seek justice through the civil courts. SB 1053 clarifies that CCP Section 340.1, which applies to actions for recovery of damages suffered as the result of childhood sexual abuse, is the sole statute governing such claims, as the Legislature intended. Fact sheet (PDF)  STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

MORE EFFICIENT CIVIL PROCEDURES

AB 2230 (Berman) – This court efficiencies measure will simplify the current procedure for separate statements. When parties have a discovery dispute, they file a motion to compel the discovery accompanied with a separate statement. Current court rules require so much detail in these separate statements that they often amount to anywhere from fifty pages to entire reams of paper. AB 2230 will promote efficiency by giving judges the option to require either a full separate statement or instead a concise outline of the discovery issues in dispute.  Fact sheet (PDF)   STATUS: Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

CAOC 2020 Legislative wrap up (pdf)

CAOC 2019 Legislative wrap up (pdf)

CAOC 2018 Legislative wrap up (pdf)

CAOC 2017 Legislative wrap up (pdf)

CAOC 2016 Legislative wrap up (pdf)

CAOC 2015-16 Legislative Update and Defeated Bills (pdf)

CAOC 2015-2016 Legislative Report (CAOC members) (pdf)

CAOC 2014-2015 Legislative Report (CAOC members) (pdf)

CAOC 2013-2014 Legislative Report (CAOC members) (pdf)