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SACRAMENTO — Just days after a victory in the Assembly, the plaintiffs bar scored again Tuesday when a bill to reform the state’s unfair competition law passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, SB 122, is being carried by Sen. Martha Escutia, the Montebello Democrat who chairs the committee, and it has the support of consumer attorney groups. Escutia’s measure is linked to AB 95 by Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who chairs the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Together, the bills reverse two recent state Supreme Court decisions that limited the reach of the unfair competition statute, Business & Professions Code � 17200 — Kraus v. Trinity Management Services, 23 Cal.4th 116, and Korea Supply Co. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., S100136. If the bills clear the Senate and Assembly floors and are signed by Gov. Gray Davis, plaintiffs will be able to seek disgorgement through fluid recovery and cy pres awards. The bills also contain reforms intended to curb alleged abuses of 17200. Most important, defendants could no longer be joined together in an action just because they run the same kind of businesses. Also, plaintiffs attorneys would have to notify defendants of their rights in a 17200 suit and, finally, courts would have to approve attorneys fees in the cases, even if they’re settled prior to filing. Several Republicans had also proposed bills to reform the statute, but none of those got enough votes to make it out of committee. Compared to last week’s Assembly hearing, Tuesday’s committee vote was smooth sailing. Corbett’s meeting was held one day after she and Escutia introduced their bill language, and people complained they hadn’t had time to properly review the proposal. Republicans also tried to stop the bill by blocking the counting of committee members’ early votes, but the clerk of the Assembly ruled that move was out of order.

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