By Tom Scott, Executive Director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
In April, the City of Los Angeles reached a deal to repair the city’s broken and crumbling sidewalks, at a cost of more than $1 billion over 30 years. Just how bad are the city’s sidewalks? One city estimate found that 40 percent of the city’s sidewalks needed to be fixed.
A plan to fix the sidewalks of Los Angeles was way overdue. Why? Because the poor state of the city’s sidewalks invited lawsuit after lawsuit against the city, at a cost of roughly $5 million per year. That’s $5 million every year that wasn’t going to fix sidewalks, or to fund any other vital city services, such as police or fire protection. Much of that money went into the pockets of personal injury lawyers, instead of funding services that taxpayers need.
The City of Los Angeles is far from alone in wasting taxpayer dollars on litigation costs. CALA released a report last year finding that 17 of California’s largest cities and counties spent more than $1 billion on litigation from 2008-2012. Considering that there are 482 cities and 58 counties in the state, the true total cost of litigation is likely much, much higher. The $5 million per year the City was spending on sidewalk lawsuits is a prime example of how cities and counties can end up spending so much on lawsuits.
It’s about time that Los Angeles leaders wised up and did something to staunch the steady flow of lawsuits against the city. Voters across the state would be wise to see what their public officials are doing to ensure that tax dollars are being spent on necessary public services, instead of endless litigation.