And according to an article posted last week on the blog CityWatch, the costs to California cities and counties from lawsuits have now crossed the half a billion dollar mark. And that in just the last two years! A huge figure if you think about it. And at a time when most government agencies are laying off many of their workers, while also separating those in need from aid that they so desperately need, a devastating one as well.
But obviously most of the individuals dragging our cities into Court could care less. For these folks such considerations are meaningless.
An organization that has put a lot of thought into this problem is the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. And this month CALA (acronyms are like taxes, inevitable) has issued a report called The Hidden Impact of Lawsuit Abuse on Taxpayers. And rather than just rail against the damage lawsuits are doing to many of our municipalities and counties, they have taken the actual dollar figures lost to litigation and stacked them up against the costs of real government programs.
Here are some examples of costs to California cities:
City Litigation Costs: In Fiscal Year 2007, the cities of Anaheim, Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Jose spent $101.2 million in litigation, $60.9 in verdicts and settlements, and $40.2 in outside counsel ... In light of recent budget cuts in nearly every city and county in the state, cities are no longer deep pockets that can afford to absorb such steep litigation costs ... To illustrate the weight of these costs, following are examples of city programs that could have been funded by what was spent on litigation:
* In Anaheim, the $2 million could have maintained 146 acres of park land and 105 sports fields.
* In Bakersfield, the $3.7 million spent on litigation could have more than paid for the city's entire Parks and Recreation Department.
* In Fresno, the $4.6 million could have funded 75 cameras and supporting equipment for a new video policing program, the Mayor's Gang Task Force for prevention and Intervention Services, and the Stamping Out Graffiti program.
* In Los Angeles, the $64.9 million spent on litigation could have funded all infrastructure improvements such as streets, storm drains and bikeways, in the city's budget.
* In Oakland, the nearly $7 million spent on litigation could have funded the entire Police Department's Port Security program (which provides public safety services, traffic safety and law enforcement in and around Oakland's airport and seaport) and the addition of 21 part-time recreation staff to support after-school programs.
* In Sacramento, the $1.9 million spent could have paid for maintenance and increased security in Old Sacramento, as well as brought world-famous events such as the Dixieland Jazz Jubilee and New Year's Eve Fireworks Celebration to the city.
* In San Diego, the $15.5 million spent could have paid for all the supplies and services of San Diego Fire-Rescue.
* In San Jose, the $1.9 million spent on litigation could have funded 28 full time positions in the fire department's emergency response unit.
In Fiscal Year 2008, these cities paid even more to deal with lawsuits, spending a total of $109.1 million in litigation, $62.6 million in verdicts and settlements, and $46.6 million in outside counsel. Again, this money could have been better spent on budget items:
* In Anaheim, the $2.4 million spent on litigation could have covered the operating costs for the Workforce Development Division whose programs are designed to match employer needs with qualified local job seekers.
* In Bakersfield, the $1.6 million could have more than paid for the realignment on Auburn Street west of Morning Drive to tie into the new location of the Auburn Street/Morning Drive intersection.
* In Fresno, the $3.3 million could have paid for the City's After School Recreation / Educational Programs, which include Literacy and Employment Readiness (BEST Program), Therapeutic Recreation, Academic Game Plan, Community Science, Fresno Connect, and the Reduce Substance Abuse Educational initiative.
* In Los Angeles, the $71.8 million could have paid the starting base salary for 1,271 police officers. The Los Angeles Police Department is currently trying to save the city $50-100 million.
* In Oakland, the $7.9 million could have completely funded the Department of Human Services.
* In Sacramento, the $3.3 million spent could have paid the salaries of 60 new police officers.
* In San Diego, the $17 million could have paid the salaries of 282 firefighters.
* In San Jose, the $1.7 million spent on litigation could have nearly funded the entire Office of the Mayor.
The CALA report goes on to give us a breakdown of the costs Counties have had to pay for litigation as well, and the services that could have been paid for out of the tens of millions of dollars lost. Included in those numbers is the $100.7 million spent on litigation in Los Angeles County, money that would have paid for almost all of the Public Library General Fund.
So listen, if you want to sue Sierra Madre, then just check what little conscience you have at the door and go at it. It is your right, and who are we to stand in your way? But I promise you one thing, you will not be treated gently here. As far as I am concerned, unless you have a damned good reason for doing so, then you are nothing but a cancer on this community.