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June 20th, 2011

California Class Actions May Be Hazardous to Workers’ Health

‘Sit-Down’ Litigation May Benefit Lawyers, But Research Suggests It Could Kill Their Clients

Reacting to an Associated Press story that circulated over the  weekend, the American Tort Reform Association is pointing to health research reported by NPR last week that suggests “California’s latest wave of shameless class actions might enrich lawyers while actaully endangering the health of retail employees.”

“The latest news out of all but bankrupt California – the class-action capital of the world – details recent court decisions in lawsuits that seize upon a previously obscure element of state labor law,” explained ATRA communications director Darren McKinney. 

“These claims target some of the nation’s biggest retailers for failing to provide seating for cashiers and other employees,” continued McKinney.  “But the latest study out of the University of South Carolina indicates that ‘sitting kills.’

“This South Carolina study, along with previous research, indicates that extensive sitting significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, even among those who exercise regularly,” McKinney said.  “So while the lawyers who are now busily ginning up these sit-down lawsuits may get rich, aided and abetted by California’s infamously plaintiff-friendly judges, the only thing their clients will get, in addition to a chair at work, is a greater risk for premature death from heart attack or stroke.

“Only in lawsuit-loving California, where employers are leaving the state in droves for growth-promoting states such as Texas and Arizona, could lawsuits that benefit lawyers but kill their clients be viewed as a worthwhile expenditure of human time and effort,” an incredulous McKinney observed.  “It reminds me of the old Seinfeld storyline where George intervenes to secure a chair for a security guard at a clothing store, even though the guard hadn’t asked for a chair.  Ultimately the store is robbed and the guard, who’d fallen asleep in George’s chair, is fired. 

“If lawmakers in Sacramento were really more interested in the well-being of California workers and less interested in generous campaign contributions from personal injury lawyers, they’d amend their state’s labor law to reflect the medical consensus about the dangers of sitting on the job,” McKinney concluded.

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