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Monday, 31 March 2003 17:00

Consumer lawsuits against repair shops in LA County tossed

A Los Angeles County judge has dismissed nine lawsuits filed against thousands of LA County mechanical and auto body repair shops by the Beverly Hills law firm Trevor Law Group. The lawsuits enraged the defendant shop owners and caught the eye of the media, resulting in a myriad of actions begin taken by the State Attorney General, the State Bar Association and the State Legislature. 

LA Superior Court Judge Carl West ruled March 28 that the defendant repair shops in the matter of Consumer Enforcement Watch Corporation .v. Porter Automotive, et al. were improperly "joined" in the action, meaning there was not enough in common amongst the defendants to sue them as a group. The written ruling also found that the lawsuits, brought under the State's Unfair Competition statute (Business and Professions Code Section 17200), was little more than a restatement of prior, mostly minor violations of Bureau of Automotive Repair regulations and therefore had little merit.

"To some degree, CEWC, at least on the surface, has some laudable goals, but they're doing it the wrong way, at least in this court," said the judge in issuing his ruling.

In addition to ruling in favor of defendants' motions to dismiss, the judge ordered the law firm, which includes attorneys Damian Trevor, Alan Hendrickson and Shane Han, to pay estimated attorneys fees and costs to the defendants that could run as much as $500,000.

The judge made his ruling without prejudice, technically giving the plaintiffs the option to refile their cases, but as individual actions against each shop rather than in groups. Defense lawyers said however, that given the $500,000 award and the enormous cost of filing individual suits, it is highly unlikely that the Trevor lawyers would pursue that option. Additionally, the Trevor lawyers are facing disciplinary action by the State Bar of California, the Bar having filed petitions to place them on inactive status, which can be the first step toward disbarring an attorney.

Judge West's ruling noted that the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office filed an amicus brief in the case, stating that the Trevor lawsuits are "poorly investigated and misguided actions which present substantial potential for harm."

The attorney for Trevor Law Group, Kevin Geary of Beverly Hills, said the judge's ruling was based on purely procedural grounds and would not be the basis for any further action by the State Bar. State Bar attorney Kimberly G. Anderson disagreed, saying that the judge's ruling improved the Bar's case against the Trevor lawyers. "I believe the that the transcripts will be helpful to the State Bar," Anderson told the Los Angeles Daily Journal. She said that Judge West's ruling shows a pattern of abuse by the attorneys because other judges have advised them before that the defendants were "misjoined" yet they continued to file similar suits. The original lawsuits were filed in Orange County Superior Court.

  

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