WHY DOES THIS BLOG EXIST?
The Short Answer: Complying with California law is an important but daunting objective for many businesses that simply cannot afford the burdens of costly litigation or aggressive regulatory actions. These legal pitfalls too often result in a promising new enterprise having to shut its doors, post a loss for a quarter and lay off employees while a class action plaintiff makes a tidy profit or a bureaucrat carves another notch in his holster. The risks can be mitigated by understanding changes in the law and trends in California consumer class action litigation which may be precursor to similar cases in other jurisdictions. It is my hope that this blog will be a valuable resource for business owners, in-house lawyers and anyone else interested in avoiding an unfair business practices lawsuit based on a failure to comply with California law.
That’s the short explanation. If you want a more complete answer to why this blog exists, read on.
The More Complete Answer: When I was a kid, I used to hear stories of California falling off the continent and landing in the Pacific Ocean. A vivid picture of that phenomenon stuck in my head. While that catastrophe never happened, a different type of erosion has been taking place in our State.
California’s economy, the eighth largest in the world, continues its downward spiral. Although our state still engages in extensive domestic and foreign commerce that impacts businesses around the nation and the world, the golden years for the Golden State might be behind us. The extent of the problem is somewhat masked particularly in the coastal regions where the sunshine and beautiful scenery keep many beleaguered businesses from leaving, even as Sacramento heaps on more regulations and creates yet another state agency to enforce the new rules. (Did you know that there are over 500 state agencies in California? The complete list is here.) A failure to comply with even one of these new regulations may serve as a predicate for a lawsuit by a consumer class action attorney for violations of California’s rather infamous Unfair Competition Law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200). Just as sure as the tide nibbles away at a deteriorating sea wall, the ground on which our state’s businesses is built continues to wash away.
There are four principal reasons why litigation and regulatory risks make it particularly difficult to do business in the Golden State:
(1) The Legislature: The California Legislature prides itself as representing the cutting edge of legal developments, formulating new consumer protections by passing legislation on a regular basis that ostensibly addresses evolving needs of the public but creates huge compliance problems for businesses. California has historically been pro-consumer and pro-employee—arguably more than any other state. With every consumer protection initiative comes a new burden on business that must be considered, if not by the Legislature, the companies tasked with compliance.
(2) The Propositions: In addition to laws passed by the Legislature, every election cycle the voters in California are faced with a half a dozen or so propositions which have far reaching consequences but are barely understood by many voters. Complex problems facing our state are boiled down to six-second sound bytes and a barrage of 30-second commercials funded by warring interest groups. The Propositions sometimes result in laws that create significant liabilities for business. The best example of this is Prop 65 passed in 1986 as “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.”
(3) The Lawyers: Private attorney general litigation is a major enforcement mechanism by which the consumer protections are implemented with the stamp of approval of the courts. The financial incentives of those lawsuits are the attorney fees that can be awarded for any lawsuit that is deemed to be in the public interest. Much of this is accomplished through class action lawsuits which are incredibly lucrative for consumer attorneys.
(4) The Courts: California courts continue to issue decisions that expand the already broad liabilities created by the Legislature. Even sympathetic judges are bound to apply the law which the Legislature passes. At the moment, the judiciary is suffering from a budget crisis which diminishes the quality of justice across the board.
The purpose of this blog is to be a resource for those individuals and businesses that have a vested interest in what is happening in the legislative halls and courthouses of California. Stakeholders include not just the businesses with operations here but those that choose to sell their products or services in the state from another jurisdiction.
A few words about some unique features of the blog:
FOR THE LAWYER AND LAYPERSON
Because the intended audience includes both lawyers and laypersons alike, I will make every effort to include posts that explain complex concepts in an easily understood manner. Some of the posts are intended for laypersons and are thus void of all legalese. Others posts are designed for the practitioner with cites to statutes, case law and other authorities.
A WORD TO THE WISE . . .
Most posts will conclude with a section entitled, “A Word to the Wise . . .” which is intended to provide a practical takeaway from the topic or trend discussed. The recommended action might include a change to internal policies or modifications to sales practices or representations to consumers.
ABOUT THOSE PICTURES
You may have already noticed the black and white pictures of California scenery. The aesthetic message of those pictures is consistent with the mission of the blog. The images at once portray the unparalleled beauty and natural resources of our great State while also providing a colorless look and feel reflective of the less than cheery picture for businesses. That and I like black and white photography!
Thanks for visiting Left Coast Law. I hope you will return many times in the future.