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SACRAMENTO — Two tort reform groups are taking a swing at the plaintiffs bar with a bill that would require that trial lawyers give a thorough accounting of the hours they spend on contingency cases. Assemblywoman Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, last week introduced AB 2371, the Legal Consumers’ Protection Act. The measure, sponsored by the Coalition to Reform Frivolous Lawsuits and Central California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, would dramatically change the way some plaintiffs lawyers handle their cases. Lawyers would have to disclose the case’s likelihood of success and estimate the number of hours a case will take, as well as how expenses will be tacked onto contingency fees and discuss the client’s share of recovery. Clients will also get the right to ask for a review of fees by a court or bar committee. And lawyers will have to give monthly reports on the time spent on a case as well as determine a fee per hour once the case is finished. In a statement, Bates said she wasn’t opposed to contingency fee arrangements. Rather, she is worried about whether contracts with lawyers are fair to consumers. James Sturdevant, president of Consumer Attorneys of California, said it’s unfair for Bates to target only personal injury lawyers for the way they bill. He said contingency fees are the only way for some people to get money. A lawyer’s cases need to be viewed as part of a “portfolio” rather than just work per hour, he said. The bill is similar to a measure introduced in 2002 that was killed in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which is controlled by trial lawyer ally Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro. Sturdevant said he had “grave doubts” the new bill will make it out of Corbett’s committee this time around.

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