Lawsuit Reforms Proposed at LAAAA Confab

INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. California advertisers suffer under the “broadest consumer protection and false-advertising statutes in the country,” said Michael K. Brown of ReedSmith, speaking at the Los Angeles Advertising Agencies Association spring conference on Friday.

Brown, an attorney with the Los Angeles law firm, characterized the fact that advertisers can be “sued again and again, even after a settlement” as a recurring nightmare for advertisers, “a jurisprudential version of Groundhog Day.”

In California, suits can be brought by just about anyone, with no obligation to show injury, Brown said, prompting “entrepreneurial plaintiffs’ lawyers to abuse the statutes and use them in ways they were not intended.”

Brown said attempts to reform lawsuit abuse have thus far failed. “Legislative reform is a stacked deck. If you have a bill that favors business in California in any way, it ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

Among the reforms suggested by Brown is limiting the ability to sue to prosecutors; restitution based upon showing of an actual injury or “deception with reliance and causation”; a limitation on attorneys’ fees; and allowing the plaintiff the “opportunity to cure before permitting a claim.”

Brown said a ballot initiative, “Californians Against Shakedown Lawsuits,” has acquired sufficient signatures to make the ballot next November, and that many of those reforms could be enacted as a result.