Double-Barreled ‘Tort Wars’ Conflict Heats Up

Nothing is more pervasive in California’s Capitol than what have been dubbed “tort wars” – skirmishes over rules governing personal injury lawsuits.

No session of the Legislature is complete without at least one clash over who can sue whom for what act and collect damages that can potentially reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tort wars pit business and insurance interests against lawyers who specialize in personal injury lawsuits, often in alliance with unions and consumer and environmental protection groups. The battles are waged in courts and in ballot measures as well as the hallways of the Capitol.

A double-barreled showdown is imminent over a unique law called the Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA), which authorizes private lawsuits to enforce California’s labor laws. Former Gov. Gray Davis signed the legislation in 2003, just five days after voters decided to recall him.

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