President’s weekly report — June 27, 2014

June 27, 2014 | By ROB RIVETT

Tort Reform — Victories in California Supreme Court

We received a couple of nice decisions this week from the California Supreme Court.  First, there was this decision in Verdugo v. Target, the case where the widow of a  heart-attack victim, who died while shopping at Target, alleged that Target had a duty to provide an automated external defibrillator (aka AED) and personnel trained to use it.  We filed this amicus brief arguing that such a duty was not legally required or wise policy.  In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court nixed the idea that the judiciary should find such a duty, explaining that it was for the legislature, not the courts, to make such policy judgments.  For more discussion of the opinion, see our blog post here.

The California Supreme Court also issued a somewhat good decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation.  The California Supreme Court has had a long history of undercutting arbitration agreements, only to be reversed by the United States Supreme Court.  So when a lower court threw out an arbitration clause in a labor dispute, we filed this amicus brief with the California Supreme Court, urging it to follow federal precedent upholding such arbitration agreements.  The Supreme Court in this opinion agreed with our position, although it then proceeded to muddy the waters by allowing plaintiffs to go to court to act as “private attorney generals” to enforce California’s labor laws, which could provide another end-run around arbitration agreements — the whole point of which is to avoid litigation. For a more extended analysis, see our blog post here.

Environment — Endangered Species Act and the Caribou

This week, PLF filed a comment letter on behalf of Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association addressing the proposed downlisting of the caribou. The impetus for the Service’s decision was a petition that PLF filed two years ago explaining that the original listing violated the Endangered Species Act.  For more information, see our blog post here.

Environment — Endangered Species Act and the Wood Stork

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally announced it is downlisting the wood stork from endangered to threatened status.  This follows from our lawsuit in Florida Home Builders v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where we had to sue the Service because it ignored its duty to follow the law.  As has happened time and again, the Service had ignored the statute’s requirements to periodically review the status of listed species.  Not only that, but after it found evidence that the wood stork did not merit an endangered listing, we had to sue again to get it off the endangered list.  As our blog post notes, this is a big deal to landowners who face substantial penalties even though the bird is well on the road to recovery.