Skyrocketing Insurance Costs

September 24, 1985

Kathleen Day did an excellent job in depicting the insurance liability crisis that currently exists in California. However, there is a major area where Californians have been thwarted for three years to obtain needed tort reform by the very powerful lobby in Sacramento, the California Trial Lawyers Assn.

Senate Bill 70 by Foran would have provided relief both to the private sector as well as municipalities under the doctrine of joint and several liability. This bill passed the Senate by a 29-5 vote but has been passed over by a subcommittee of the Assembly Judicial Committee, the graveyard of civil justice refrom for the past two years. This bill was supported by the insurance industry, both companies and producers, the California Manufacturers Assn., the League of California Cities, as well as many consumer groups.

The medical profession has received relief by passage of the Keene Act, which limits pain and suffering awards in proportion to fault, as pointed out in Day's article. What about relief for the rest of California's businesses and municipalities?

Business in California is constantly plagued by false, fraudulent and groundless lawsuits in the hope that the insurance companies would offer to settle for an amount less than it would cost to defend the claim. This results in overcrowding of the judicial calendar and it frequently takes up to five years for a case to come to trial. A simple solution to reduce the strain of the judicial process is to have the plaintiff pay attorney's fees for the defense of the claim in the event of an unsuccessful action.

Today there exists a serious problem in that business and municipalities cannot obtain liability insurance or if they can it's at exorbitant rates that business is then forced to pass on the consumer.

California desperately needs tort reform and the only way we can obtain it is for the people to write to their legislators and demand tort reform.


Sherman Oaks

Maxwell is chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers Assn. of California.

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