Few Capitol battles are as heated as the ongoing feud between the trial lawyers and advocates for tort reform. Yet, the two groups have found themselves on the same side of one litigation controversy. Both sides are critical of Orange County Assemblywoman Diane Harkey’s defamation lawsuit against a fellow Republican lawmaker.

In late August, Harkey filed a civil lawsuit against State Senator Mark Wyland, R-San Diego, in Orange County Superior Court for defamation, presenting her in a false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The dispute centers on comments Wyland made at a summer Tea Party event, in which he allegedly referred to a failed investment company managed by Harkey’s husband, Dan. Both Wyland and Harkey are candidates for the Board of Equalization.

Harkey is seeking $10 million in damages after Wyland’s comments caused her to obtain medical treatment for “severe and grievous mental and emotional suffering, fright, anguish, shock, nervousness, and anxiety.” Harkey has refused to respond to repeated requests for more information about the supposed medical treatment.

Tort Reform Advocates “Disappointed” by Litigation

Harkey’s multi-million dollar claim for emotional suffering has “disappointed” advocates for tort reform.

“Assemblymember Diane Harkey has been a strong ally in the fight against lawsuit abuse,” said Tom Scott, executive director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. “We are disappointed that she felt this dispute needed to be settled through litigation, and we hope for a speedy resolution that avoids using scarce resources from our state’s already overburdened courts.”

That statement put CALA on the same side as their mortal foes, the consumer attorneys. Brian S. Kabateck, president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, offered a stronger rebuke of Harkey’s lawsuit and accused the lawmaker of having a hypocritical stance on legal reform.

“Some people dislike the legal system until they need it,” Kabatech said. “Diane Harkey’s recent propulsion from so-called ‘tort reform advocate’ to major litigant, filing a lawsuit some would term facially frivolous, highlights the hypocrisy in her position.”

He added, “Reminds me of the old saying that “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”