- By: Bruce Batti, Fresno Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman and President of JSA
If you look up the word “frivolous” in the dictionary, you’ll find its stated definition as, “not having any serious purpose or value.” That very adjective was used to describe my academic endeavors while at California State University, Fresno. It was also a word bandied about by my mother, coaches and former girlfriends.
And while I neither confirm nor deny the validity of my previous, frivolous pursuits, I can tell you that I vehemently disagree with how the word is used today. In particular, its use in the phrase, frivolous lawsuit. You see, in my mind, frivolous lawsuits do have a serious purpose and value. Unfortunately the purpose and value is based in greed.
Why else would a small number of southern California law firms come to Fresno and target our neighborhoods with the promise of easy money for homeowners? Certainly these firms are not looking out for the best interest of the homeowners. Because after promises of tens of thousands of dollars, most homeowners walk away with only a few thousand dollars, and a home warranty that is now void. Meanwhile, based on their aggregate take, these same southern California firms line their pockets with our local developer dollars and then hide behind their well-paid lobbyist. It is greed, plain and simple and it does nothing for our local economy.
Unfortunately, the ramifications are more than just loss of local dollars. Frivolous lawsuits are devastating when it comes to our local economy. As the valley has grown, our building industry has long been a key driver for our economy. But now, builders must pass these financial losses into the cost of each house and pass that on to consumers. Worse yet, developers are not building much needed, entry level housing in our less-desirable neighborhoods because these are the very homeowners that are targeted by the southern California law firms. The ultimate outcome is fewer jobs for our local construction industry at a time when so many are looking for work.
It’s time for us, as a community, to fight back. At the Chamber, we are working with the building industry, and our local and state leaders to introduce legislation that will help protect homeowners and reverse the cost of frivolous lawsuits. We believe that it’s a battle worth fighting. Regardless of outcome, can we at least call these legal actions by their correct name – Irresponsible Lawsuits. Or better still – Job Killers.