In a stunning show of fealty to insurance giant Safeco, 14 Republican state Senators and 11 Assemblymembers have asked the California Supreme Court to overturn an appellate ruling that Safeco Insurance has to disclose the names of policyholders it may have cheated.
Considering that state lawmakers are supposed to be spending their time grappling with the disastrous state budget, it must be very important to these lawmakers to protect Safeco from accountability for overcharging Californians, including, no doubt, folks in their district. Who do they think are their constituents?... O' Safeco, how can we serve you?
The Senators who signed the letter are, pictured from left to right, Sen. Cogdil, Sen. Aanasted, Sen. Benoit, Sen. Ashburn, Sen. Cox and Sen. Hollingsworth, as well as Senators Denham, Dutton, Harman, Huff, Runner, Strickland, Walters and Wyland (Maldonado is the only Republican Senator not to sign). Also signing were Assemblymembers Smyth, Tran, Strickland, Silva, Fletcher, Berryhill, Garrick, Gilmore, Fuller, Anderson and Logue.
Here's the backstory:
Last month a California Court of Appeals ruled that Safeco had to give our lawyers access to their files to identify Safeco customers who were surcharged in violation of California law. As the Los Angeles DailyJournal reported:
In a published opinion that loosens limits on consumer class
actions, an appellate court said Safeco Insurance Co. must disclose
which customers it allegedly surcharged illegally several years ago.
The rub is that the customer list, if produced, could identify hundreds
- even thousands - of new plaintiffs in an on-going complaint against
the Seattle-based auto insurer.
In 2002, after investigating Safeco’s auto insurance application
process, Consumer Watchdog sued the company for violating California law, which
forbids insurers from surcharging or refusing to insure motorists just
because they previously did not have insurance. The suit also charges
that Safeco failed to disclose its practices to the Insurance
Commissioner – a separate violation of the law.
In 2004 insurers and other big businesses won passage of Prop 64 -- claiming to stop "shakedown lawsuits" but actually attacking the rights of consumer and environmental groups to hold corporate cheats accountable. Later, Safeco cited that initiative to say that Consumer Watchdog could not bring this lawsuit on behalf of the public.
A volunteer stepped forward to continue the suit, but the trial court
determined that she was not a proper plaintiff.
Based on the fact that it was quite evident that Safeco engaged in the improper practice, the Court ordered Safeco to provide a list of the people who were surcharged, so
they could have an opportunity to participate in the litigation. The Court of Appeal agreed so Safeco has gone to the Supreme Court hoping to block accountability.
A decision by the Cal Supreme Court whether or not to review the case is expected soon.