Wednesday, April 9, 2003
Trevor Law Group Suit Against Restaurants Dismissed in Superior Court
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A lawsuit charging more than 1,000 restaurants with violating the state’s unfair competition law was dismissed yesterday.
The suit filed by Trevor Law Group on behalf of Consumer Enforcement Watch Corp. was voluntarily dismissed after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carl West posted a tentative ruling dismissing the action on grounds that the 1,036 defendants had been joined improperly in a single action.
A cross-complaint by some of the defendants, however, remains pending, attorney Frank Chen told the MetNews. Chen and his firm, Alhambra’s Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Pearson, represents 44 of the defendants.
Trevor Law Group, a Beverly Hills firm, and Consumer Enforcement Watch Corp. have rejected all media requests for comment since they were accused last year of using the statute, Business and Professions Code Sec. 17200, to extort money from businesses by suing as a “private attorney general,” then demanding sums of between $1,000 and $25,000 to file dismissals.
In addition to the cross-complaint, Trevor Law Group and Consumer Enforcement Watch are defendants in a suit brought under Sec. 17200 by Attorney General Bill Lockyer. A motion to dismiss that action under the anti-SLAPP statue is pending.
Trevor Law Group attorneys Damian Trevor, Allan Hendrickson and Shane Han have also been named in a disciplinary action by the State Bar.
Chen said in a statement:
“This dismissal did not come easily, magically, nor automatically. The dismissal of the restaurant case was the result of a concerted effort by many individuals and organizations who were concerned that our justice system was not being abused, and that our legal profession was not tarnished by this type of abusive litigation.”
Chen praised Lockyer, lawyers in his office and that of District Attorney Steve Cooley, and State Bar officials, including President James Herman and local Board of Governors member Nancy Hoffmeier Zamora.
The restaurant suit originally named a charity, Helping Hands for the Blind. as plaintiff, but the Chatsworth-based advocacy group for the blind said it bowed out because it had not agreed to the massive strike against the restaurant industry.
Critics of the suit, and of an earlier action against hundreds of auto repair businesses—dismissed a week ago by West—alleged that non-English speaking owners of mom-and-pop businesses were being targeted because they were more likely to be frightened by the threat of a lawsuit and less likely to know their rights.
Chen said the suit was based on Health Code violations that typically result in low ratings being posted on the restaurants.
In order to recover, the plaintiff must show the restaurants profited from whatever action led to the low ratings. But Chen said no restaurant that received a low rating for violating the Health Code likely profited from that fact.
Consumer Enforcement Watch, a Santa-Ana based non-profit, was incorporated on April 30 of last year, just before the first lawsuit was filed, and the corporation’s mailing address is the same as the Trevor Law Group’s mailing address, according to state records.
Assemblywoman Judy Chu, whose office advised more than 200 businesses within her district that were named in the suits, said the head of Consumer Enforcement Watch Corp. is Damian Trevor’s wife.
The case has led to calls for reform of Sec. 17200. At least eight bills have been introduced in the Legislature.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company