They would have preferred staying home to tend to their stores, shops and services. But they had to be there to stand up for their economic livelihood and to protect the jobs of their loyal employees.

More than 150 small business owners and supporters gathered for a boisterous rally April 4 on the lawns of the State Capitol. They had travelled there to issue a public call for new legislation to stop abusive and frivolous lawsuits.

The fancy way of describing their request is that they are seeking fair-minded legal reforms to bring significant relief from lawsuits and litigation that often result in expensive, unwarranted settlements. 

The simpler and more real way of saying it is like this:  they don’t want any more shakedown lawsuits that force them to file for bankruptcy, lay off workers, leave the state or just give up and close down their businesses.

The need is clear for common sense measures to help protect businesses from high-volume litigants and their attempts at quick, drive-by legal action.  There are a handful of these litigants out there trolling for minor technical issues or questionable legal loopholes over rules and regulations concerning, for example, the Americans With Disabilities Act.

So that’s why owners from all across the state gathered with supporters from California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) and the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC).  The two advocacy groups helped organize face-to-face visits inside the Capitol building with various state legislators.CALA Day at the Capitol 2017

But they didn’t have to go looking for two of the lawmakers — Assembly member Adam Gray (D-Merced) and Assembly member Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield). They were already there on the grounds waiting for them.  The duo are sponsoring important bills that can do a lot of good.

Gray’s legislation, Assembly Bill 913, is designed to curb extremely high-frequency litigants from filing multiple suits.  The legislation would clamp down on frequent lawsuit filers and allow judges to act as gatekeepers, rejecting claims appearing to have no merit.

Fong is sponsoring AB 1429 and AB 1430 ― new bills that would help curb the number of abusive lawsuits brought against businesses for alleged wage and payroll violations. The bills, if passed, will better position the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency to act effectively, and help slow down the onslaught of bad and frivolous lawsuits.

Together, the three bills offer smart solutions and provide some much-needed checks and balances so that businesses are not vulnerable to paying high costs.  Sadly, these costs can often climb to hundreds of thousands of dollars ― and sometimes even into the millions.

It’s fair to say that our state needs hard-working business owners and entrepreneurs at all levels, from small enterprises to large companies, to stay in business. They need to keep growing, creating jobs and being vital economic engines. And they need to stand tall for their right to earn a living.