While I was busy mediating cases in 2012, our California legislature was busy passing more than 800 laws. While some of them clearly make sense, I wonder which special interest groups were at work to get some of the more arcane measures passed.
As a previous litigator, I am always interested in the new laws affecting lawsuits. This past year, the legislature passed at least two new measures affecting civil ligation. The first, AB 1875 limits “…a deposition of any person to 7 hours of total testimony, except under specified circumstances.” Those special circumstances include where the parties have stipulated to a longer deposition, or to a deponent who has been designated as the most qualified to testify, to employment related cases and other situations. (AB 1875) This new statute follows existing federal court procedural rules.
A second measure – AB 1354- now requires a party who objects to producing documents, tangible things et cetera to “provide sufficient factual information in its response for other parties to evaluate the merits of that claim, including, if necessary, a privilege log.”. In short, a party can no longer simply object but now must provide a privilege log.( AB 1354 ). This simply enacts existing case law.
Still on the beneficial side is SB 1264 which now includes as mandated “…reporters any athletic coach, including, but not limited to, an assistant coach or a graduate assistant involved in coaching at a public or private postsecondary institution.” as those who are required to report child abuse under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act. ( SB 1264) Obviously, this is the result of the Penn State matter.
Another serious measure- SB 1047- creates the “Silver Alert” by now requiring the California Highway Patrol “… to activate a Silver Alert…” for those missing persons who are 65 years of age or older. Thus along with missing children, California motorists will now be notified about missing senior citizens. ( SB 1047) For us baby boomers, this will help us find the way home!
Moving to the lighter side of what our legislature was up to, AB 1658 allows California motorists to go back in time by ordering “…a specialized license plate that replicates plates from the state’s past” as long as 7,500 applications for any one particular license plate is received. The plates to be included in the California Legacy License Plate Program are those that were in use from 1956 to 1986. (So, if I now see an “old” license plate on a vehicle (e.g. yellow letters on black or blue background), I can no longer assume that the owner has kept the plate all these years!). ( AB 1658 )
The technology world definitely had its special interest lobbyists at work this past year. AB 1708 allows a motorist to provide proof of insurance coverage and/or financial responsibility via her electronic mobile device; the insurer provides electronic rather than paper verification to be shown upon request. ( AB 1708 ) ( What happens if the battery dies at the critical moment on the smart phone?)
Another technology driven law is AB 1536 which will now allow a driver “…to write, send or read a text based communication..” while driving so long as it is voice operated and hands free. In short, as long as your smart phone or tablet has a “personal assistant” who can take dictation and read e mails and texts to you, you can drive and text! ( AB 1536 ) (“Sari”, where are you? Can you hear me now?)
Closely related is SB 1310 which explains that “…[e]xisting law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to examine applicants for specific driver’s licenses and requires that the examination include, among other things, a test of the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the provisions of the Vehicle Code governing the operation of vehicles upon the highways. This bill would require the department to include a test of the applicant’s understanding of the distractions and dangers of handheld cellular phone use and text messaging while operating a motor vehicle “. This seems counter-intuitive to AB 1536. Perhaps the Senate was not paying attention to what the Assembly was doing! ( SB 1310 )
On the lighter side is AB 2243 entitled the Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act. It provides “…for limited civil liability for bodily injury sustained as a result of the inherent risks associated with space flight activities. The bill would limit the liability of a space flight entity that complies with these provisions, except as provided.” The space flight entity is required to collect a signed warning statement from each participant of the space flight by which the participant acknowledges that the space flight entity has limited civil liability for bodily injury sustained as a result of the inherent risks associated with flying in space. The more interesting question is where would such a lawsuit be brought? Is “space” within the jurisdictional limits of a California state court? ( AB 2243 )
Back here on earth, SB1298 authorizes “… the operation of an autonomous vehicle, as defined, on public roads for testing purposes, by a driver who possesses the proper class of license for the type of vehicle being operated if specified requirements are met, including that the driver be seated in the driver’s seat, monitoring the safe operation of the autonomous vehicle, and capable of taking over immediate manual control of the autonomous vehicle in the event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency. The bill would prohibit, except as provided for testing purposes, the operation of such a vehicle on public roads until the manufacturer submits an application to the department that includes various certifications, including a certification that the autonomous technology satisfies certain requirements, and the application is approved by the department pursuant to the regulations that the department would be required to adopt. …” ( SB 1298 ) ( According to some of our motorists, automomous cars are already being driven- by non-thinking drivers!) ( Query- if no one is actually driving the vehicle, how can the “non-driver” claim it to be a ”lemon”?)
Well known is California’s love for having lots of propositions on its ballots. In any given election, voters may have 10 or more propositions to consider. Less well known is that Calfornia law imposes a time limit for marking the lengthy ballot. Existing law allows a voter to remain in the voting booth for no longer than 5 or 10 minutes; if no other voter would be inconvenienced, a voter can stay longer. Now AB 1724 changes this by deleting the provision prermitting a voter to remain longer if no other voter is inconvenienced and instead, permits a voter to stay longer than 10 minutes if the voter informs the precinct board member that additional time is needed. However, if the precinct board member determines that the voter is simply trying to interfere with the voting process, then such permission may be denied. Query: who is going to physcially kick the voter out of the booth? (AB 1724 )
Finally, for dog lovers, the California legislature has determined that our furry friends can no longer be used to hunt bears and bobcats. SB 1221 generally makes it unlawful to permit or allow a dog to pursue a bear, as defined, or bobcat at any time. I wonder which special interest group was at work here! ( SB 1221)
In closing, I want to wish each of you a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year, and I hope you have as much fun perusing your own state’s new laws as I did!
… Just something to think about!
by Phyllis G. Pollack