Health Insurers, Consumer Advocates Debate Proposition 64
Health insurers, consumer groups, plaintiff attorneys and other businesses are weighing in on Proposition 64, an initiative on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would restrict lawsuits under the state's unfair competition law, the Los Angeles Daily News reports (Pondel, Los Angeles Daily News, 8/15). California's Unfair Competition Law is the only consumer protection law in the United States that allows people to sue companies even when the plaintiff has not been harmed personally. Proposition 64 would limit lawsuits to people who can prove a loss of money or property as a result of the companies' actions. It also would make it more difficult for individuals to file lawsuits aimed at obtaining court orders to halt particular business practices statewide.
Supporters of the ballot initiative, including Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross of California, say their efforts are intended to help prevent frivolous and costly lawsuits (California Healthline, 8/10).
"Prop. 64 doesn't stop lawyers from bringing lawsuits. It stops lawyers from bringing lawsuits with no clients and no evidence of harm," John Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, said. He added that some attorneys represent themselves to receive settlement money.
Tyler Mason, a spokesperson for Cypress-based PacifiCare Health Systems, said the company supports the initiative because "[w]e need to curtail as many lawsuits as possible." He added, "The health care dollars need to stay in the delivery system, and the quickest way to get people the care they need is not through the courts."
Carmen Balber, a consumer advocate at Santa Monica-based Election Watchdog, said, "[I]nstead of stopping shady lawyers, this proposition unjustly protects HMOs, banks and other businesses. There are other ways to root out bad actions without eliminating consumer and public protections" (Los Angeles Daily News, 8/15).
The ballot title and summary for Proposition 64 is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the summary.