The city and county of Los Angeles together spent $650 million on litigation in the last four years - including during the recession when their budgets were so tight that they cut back on public service, according to a report issued Friday.
"Unscrupulous attorneys and plaintiffs treat public sector budgets as a coffer to be raided and file abusive lawsuits against local governments seeking a quick payday," said Tom Scott, executive director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, which conducted the analysis.
But Consumer Attorneys of California president Brian Kabateck said injustice would result from the changes sought by CALA,which he portrayed as a puppet of corporations and industries seeking to be shielded from lawsuits themselves.
"We always have an open mind when it comes to making the legal system better, but not when it involves depriving people of their opportunity to have their day in court," he said.
Kabateck added if cities and counties want to avoid being sued for excessive force, medical malpractice, negligence, discrimination and other abuses, they should monitor their own practices.
"Maybe (litigation costs are) extraordinarily exorbitant, but cities and counties need to make sure that their police officers and deputies are better trained, their vehicles are safer, and their teachers don't go out and molest children in the classroom," he said.
Scott stressed CALA is a grass-roots nonprofit with more than 50,000 supporters throughout the state, but declined to answer questions about corporate funding.
The Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School has studied similar organizations and concluded they "actually represent major corporations and industries seeking to escape liability for the harm they cause consumers." In a fact sheet, it noted donors include the tobacco, insurance, oil, drug and auto industries.
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