Turning the page on 2020

Courts Crisis Committee to evaluate options in dealing with the COVID crisis in the civil courts

Nancy Peverini
2020 December


We all will be delighted to turn the page on 2020. With a pandemic, economic crisis, a topsy-turvy presidential election and, closer to home, hamstrung courts up and down the state because of COVID-19, the New Year can’t come quickly enough.

But as the 2019-20 legislative session closed out, there were successes amid the tough times, particularly before the pandemic gripped the world. So, let’s take a moment to look back.

Courts Crisis Committee

CAOC has formed a Courts Crisis Committee composed of Micha Star Liberty, Casey Johnson, Geoff Wells, Greg Rizio, Paul Matiasic, Mike Arias, Craig Peters, Doug Saeltzer, David Casey, Amy Martel, Brian Kabateck, Val McGinty and Don Ernst. The committee is evaluating legislative and non-legislative options to address the current crisis. To that end, we have been soliciting feedback on some of the proposals that have been suggested by committee members and others. Please email us your suggestions.

2019/2020 sponsored/priority bills

While the past year saw many of our best bills undercut as the lawmakers focused almost exclusively on COVID-19-related legislation, the two-year legislative session that just ended was not without its victories. CAOC-backed bills signed into law included:

Arbitration: SB 707 (Wieckowski) Provides that the drafting party of a commercial or employment-related arbitration agreement is in material breach of the arbitration agreement if the drafting party fails to pay, as required by existing law, specified costs and fees associated with the arbitration proceeding. Chaptered 870

Asbestos: SB 645 (Monning) Limits the amount of time a plaintiff in a civil action for injury or illness that results in mesothelioma or silicosis may be deposed by defendants if a doctor determines the plaintiff is unlikely to live for more than six months. Chaptered 212

Auto: AB 3311 (Grayson) Increases the state’s minimum auto insurance requirements from $15,000 for an accident with one victim, $30,000 for multiple victims and $5,000 for property damage to $30,000 for one victim, $60,000 for multiple victims and $25,000 for property damage. Bill died due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Sexual harassment: AB 1510 (Reyes) Addresses the allegations against Dr. George Tyndall and the University of Southern California (USC) by reviving a specific set of claims that would otherwise be time-barred because of the applicable statute of limitations arising out of sexual assault or other inappropriate sexual conduct for one year starting January 1, 2020. Chaptered 462

Settlements: AB 2723 (Chiu) Authorizes attorneys for parties in civil litigation the ability to sign a stipulated settlement on the litigant’s behalf. Chaptered 290

Document production: SB 370 (Umberg) Eliminates the option to produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business, requiring instead that the documents be labeled to correspond with the categories in the demand. Chaptered 208

Remote depos, e-service: SB 1146 (Umberg) Makes permanent Judicial Council Emergency Rules 11 and 12 to allow for remote depositions and electronic service. The bill also allows trial deadlines to be continued as trials are postponed due to the shutdown. Chaptered 112

Elder abuse: SB 314 (Dodd) Adds abandonment to the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) as a basis for awarding enhanced remedies to victims of such abuse. Defines “abandonment” as the desertion or willful forsaking of an elder or a dependent adult by anyone having care or custody of that person under circumstances in which a reasonable person would continue to provide care and custody. Chaptered 21

Workplace harassment: AB 9 (Reyes) SPONSOR Extends the deadline by which victims of workplace harassment, discrimination, or civil rights-related retaliation must file their allegation with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) from one year to three years. Chaptered 709

Forced arbitration: AB 51 (Gonzalez) Prohibits employers from forcing employees to waive, as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit, their right to have future legal disputes over incidents of harassment, discrimination, civil rights-related retaliation, or Labor Code violations heard in the dispute resolution forum of their choice. The bill also protects California workers from retaliation if they refuse to agree to such a waiver. Chaptered 711

Expectations for 2021

As we proceed into 2021, we expect another COVID-challenged year that could have an impact on our legislative program. We remain resolute, however, in our determination to push forward with good legislation for the sake of civil justice, your clients, the courts and our democracy. As always, thank you for your continued support of the CAOC legislative program.

Nancy Peverini Nancy Peverini

Nancy Peverini is Legislative Director of the Consumer Attorneys of California. She can be reached at nancyp@caoc.org.

Copyright © 2022 by the author.
For reprint permission, contact the publisher: Advocate Magazine