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The Litigious State

June 10, 2013

It saddened us to see the agenda item during Wednesday’s Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting about banning skateboarding from all town streets.

The thought of banning anything recreational doesn’t make sense to us, really, regardless of where you live.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world that values common sense anymore, and on top of that, we live in California.

Instead of the Golden State, we should really be called the Litigious State.

More than one million lawsuits are filed in California every year. While some of these lawsuits have merit, many do not and these lawsuits are costing the state and its residents.

Municipalities and counties across the state have been passing measures (for years now) that prohibit the public from activities—all in the fear of lawsuits.

It’s so bad here that a group was created to (try and) counter frivolous lawsuits—California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA).

According to its website, CALA is a nonpartisan grassroots movement of concerned citizens and businesses who are fighting against lawsuit abuse in California.

And we thought Mammoth Lakes was facing a constant uphill battle.

According to a report CALA released in April 2013 called “More Lawyers, Less Public Services: The Cost of Litigation to California’s Cities and Counties,” California is the most litigious state in the country.

“Deterioration of moral principles and values, lack of community, a pervasive entitlement mentality, lawyers with too much time on their hands, and a runaway jury system have all played a role in the litigation explosion we all face,” the report stated.

We couldn’t agree more.

Mammoth Lakes is already familiar with losing lawsuits (oh, you better believe we made it into CALA’s report!), and we’re sad to see our council members even having to vote on prohibiting activities to avoid another lawsuit (although we’re starting to get nervous about the TBID…)

California is known nationwide for its unfair courts. According to CALA’s report, in December 2012, the American Tort Reform Association identified California as the nation’s worst “Judicial Hellhole.”

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform also ranked California among the worst states in the nation for its legal climate.

What has happened to us—as Californians? As Americans?

We put so much value in outdoor activities, in independence, in recreation, and in adventure, only to turn around and sue someone (or something) for what? Justice?

It’s pathetic. And unfortunately, we imagine it will only get worse.

What sue-happy people and lawyers might not realize is that taxpayers end up picking up the tab for these city and county lawsuits.

The business/economic climate of California isn’t a dream in the first place, and California’s poor legal climate hurts its ability to grow its economy and create jobs.

CALA’s report gives an example: The owner of the Carl’s Jr. chain recently announced his decision to halt his expansion plans in California, and as soon as his lease in California expires in 2015, he’s moving to Texas.

The reason: legal costs to operate a business in the state.

We don’t necessarily blame the council for addressing the skateboarding issue. It’s what cities and counties are now forced to do to protect themselves—and in turn protect taxpayers.

It just saddens us that it has come to this.

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