Search Results for ‘unruh rava’

California’s Unruh Act “provokes outrage”; it’s “invoked by the wrong people”

We’ve often covered the outrageous results of California’s Unruh Act, a lawyer-enriching, endlessly abusable enactment that awards damages without actual injury, generates surprising new grounds for litigation, and tilts the playing field of litigation toward plaintiffs with one-way fee shift entitlements and other goodies. Now, whether or not with dollar signs twinkling in their eyes, some busybodies have invoked it to go after a women-in-tech conference over alleged sex discrimination, and a whole new generation of commentators have discovered that in areas like the Unruh Act, “the legal system allows meritless claims to extort compliance” and that the “threat of a lawsuit is usually enough to shut a company down, even if the company stands a good chance of winning in court, simply for one reason: it costs less to settle than it does to fight in court.” Ken at Popehat does not offer a warm outpouring of sympathy:

Here’s the thing: if you only wake up to how broken the system is when it’s abused by one of your ideological enemies, you’re a vapid partisan hack. The legal system — including, but not “only” or “especially” civil rights laws — is a tool of extortion, deceit, and thuggery. I’ve seen nothing in my 21 years as a lawyer to make me think that civil rights plaintiffs are any more likely than other plaintiffs to abuse the system. But some laws lend themselves to abuse — like laws that are deliberately broad, deliberately flexible, and that award attorney fees only to prevailing plaintiffs, removing all deterrents against frivolous suits and piling on incentives to cave to extortion. The result is a system that’s profitable for lawyers, mediocre for individual plaintiffs, and a constant burden on potential defendants in a way that utterly fails to distinguish between wrongdoers and the innocent.

If you’re only irritated by this when a group of Wrong People target a group of Right People, you’re not to be taken seriously.

Setback for a “Ladies’ Day” suit

Serial suit-filer Alfred Rava wanted to use his lawsuit against Bear Valley Ski Resort over a “Ladies’ Day” promotion as the basis for a class action, but a judge ruled that he’s not entitled to do that, because California’s Unruh Act already provides for him to get a $4,000 payday with no need to show injury:

“Assuming plaintiff succeeds on the merits, Bear Valley Ski Resort would be liable for mandatory statutory penalties of $4,000 X 995 putative class members,” [Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony] Mohr wrote. “The product of $3,980,000 constitutes a draconian sum that would strip Bear Valley of its assets.”

[Cal Law “Legal Pad” via Cal Biz Lit, court order in PDF]

Sexual harassment lawsuits of the future: Comic-Con edition

Electronic Arts surely has better lawyers than the ones who signed off on this contest (h/t cirocco), which merely asks for a standard grip-and-grin photo, but can be read to require photos of “acts of lust” upon booth models. And that’s not even taking account of the Alfred Ravas of the world, since Comic-Con is in San Diego, and thus subject to the Unruh Act…

“California bill would protect discounts for state workers”

What happened to Sacramento businesses when they offered “Furlough Friday” discounts to state workers whose pay had been cut? They found themselves the target of demand letters from an unnamed entrepreneurial San Diego lawyer who alleged that the discounts violated the state’s famously broad Unruh Act ban on discrimination, and demanded cash settlements. Lawmakers took the step of seeking and obtaining the support of the powerful state trial-lawyers’ group, Consumer Attorneys of California, for remedial legislation, which is “something you don’t see every day: trial lawyers backing a bill that would eliminate some lawsuits.” [Sacramento Bee]

Update: According to Patrick McGreevy of the L.A. Times (h/t “Patw” in comments), the attorney is Alfred Rava of “Mother’s Day stadium suit” fame (Jun. 12, Jun. 17, etc.)

Where’s his Mother’s Day present?

More entrepreneurial lawyering in California:

A Los Angeles psychologist who was denied a tote bag during a Mother’s Day giveaway at an Angel game is suing the baseball team, alleging sex and age discrimination.

Michael Cohn’s class-action claim in Orange County Superior Court alleges that thousands of males and fans under 18 were “treated unequally” at a “Family Sunday” promotion last May and are entitled to $4,000 each in damages.

(Dave McKibben, “L.A. Psychologist Who Didn’t Get Tote Bag at Mother’s Day Angel Game Files Lawsuit”, Los Angeles Times, May 11). Cohn’s attorney is Alfred Rava, who (as the L.A. Times really should have found out by Googling Overlawyered, if not its own archives) was among the key figures in the 2003 spree by which owners of San Diego nightspots were hit up for handsome cash settlements for having held “Ladies’ Night” promotions. The Unruh Act, California’s distinctively liberal civil rights statute, allows complainants to demand $4,000 a pop for such misdeeds, and it’s no defense to suggest that the customer’s primary reason for getting involved in the underlying transaction may have been to set up the $4,000 entitlement. More: “Lex Icon” wishes to make clear that he’s not the kind of lawyer who files cases like this (May 13).

“Kiss ladies’ night goodbye”

Although the California Supreme Court ruled as long ago as 1985 that the state’s civil rights law prohibits “Ladies’ Night” discounts at bars, various San Diego taverns apparently hadn’t gotten the word. That created a perfect opening for Steven Surrey and Alfred Rava to make the rounds of nightspots in the county, demanding similar discounts for themselves and taking note when they were refused. The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides $4,000 fines for each violation plus “one-way” attorneys’ fee awards (pay if you are a losing defendant, collect nothing if you win). The next step was for lawyers to swoop down and obtain $20,000 settlements from six errant bar owners and $5,000 from a seventh that was going out of business. “One of the [complainants] is a California Western School of Law classmate of the two lawyers who filed the suits on their behalf. The other is a paralegal. When asked about the social merits of these lawsuits, Erik Jenkins, one of the attorneys who filed the suits, made comparisons between ladies night discounts and the discrimination faced by African-Americans in the South.” (Alex Roth, San Diego Union-Tribune, Aug. 3).

In other news of California bounty-hunting, the Long Beach Press-Telegram (Aug. 2) has editorially cited our editor’s recent WSJ op-ed in upbraiding local Assemblywoman Martha Escutia for advancing a measure that masquerades as reform of the state’s notorious section 17200 law but in fact would give lawyers even more scope to use it for shakedowns (see Jul. 28).

Addendum: Lest anyone doubt that highly entrepreneurial applications of section 17200 remain alive and well despite the downfall of the Trevor Law Group, John Sullivan at the Civil Justice Association of California reprints a recent letter (PDF) from a Bay Area law firm demanding $6500 in legal fees in exchange for not filing a 17200 lawsuit over an allegedly erroneous advertisement; the law firm does not claim to represent any clients injured by the ad, but does state that “A substantial percentage of this firm?s practice is devoted to prosecuting UCL violations.” (“17200 Abuses don’t stop with Trevor: Shakedowns Head North”, CJAC press release, Jul. 23)