The CAOC Strikes Back at Builders

The message here, apparently, is “Don’t mess with us — we’re lawyers.?

A month after the construction industry launched an initiative campaign to curb construction-defect and disability-access lawsuits filed by trial lawyers, the Consumer Attorneys of California filed early paperwork this week for initiatives that strike back. Three of them.

The Consumer Attorneys’ salvos are: the “Safe Homes California Act of 2006,? the “Build Houses Safe and Sound Act of 2006,? and the “Safe and Sound Homes Act of 2006.? The first would suspend for five years the licenses of builders who “willfully? disregard building codes at least two times in three years. The second would allow homeowners to sue over building code violations, regardless of whether they suffer actual physical damage. And the third just combines the provisions of the first two into a single two-punch measure.

But it’s not just about quantity. All three Consumer Attorneys initiatives contain this sly legal kicker: if any of them receives more “yes? votes than the building industry’s ballot measure — even if voters approve all four — the trial lawyers’ initiative becomes law and the builders’ measure is automatically nixed.

“The building industry needs to be put on notice,? Consumer Attorneys president Frank Pitre said in one of his frequent prepared statements. “CAOC will not sit on the sidelines and watch the industry attempt to insulate themselves against accountability for their actions.?

— Cheryl Miller

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