Behrens and Montenegro-Urch Publish Commentary on Proposed California Tort Law

Shook Public Policy Group Co-Chair Mark Behrens and Associate Mayela Montenegro-Urch have authored a commentary for Law360 on proposed legislation in California that would "dramatically increase lawsuit damages in survival cases" by increasing the types of damages available. "S.B. 447 overturns California's long-standing approach," they explain, "The bill adds pain and suffering, loss of consortium, emotional distress and disfigurement damages to punitive and economic loss damages in survival lawsuits if the cause of action accrues before Jan. 1, 2026." The bill has passed the state senate, and the California Assembly will consider it next.

"The public may soon realize that the deep pocket is their own pocket," Behrens and Montenegro-Urch write. "If you own a car in California, your insurance premiums may jump. If you do business in California, you may face crushing lawsuits. Shoppers may see higher prices. The sad fact is that the state's least wealthy citizens will be hit the hardest by the hidden 'tort tax' that will be baked into the cost of goods and services to offset the higher costs on businesses from S.B. 447."

The authors provide a number of recommendations for improving the bill that would reduce its negative effects, including capping noneconomic damages similar to the cap on medical malpractice cases in the state. "Providing an adequate, but not unlimited, noneconomic damage award to relatives of deceased plaintiffs would help create balance in the bill," they explain.