Fred Hiestand says he’s out for justice. Others say he’s just out of his mind.
The man whose name is synonymous with tort reform — he’s the Civil Justice Association of California’s general counsel — has filed a class action against the city of Sacramento, the city’s police chief, city police officers and a tow truck company for towing his car after he left it in a no-parking zone.
What’s more, Hiestand is seeking damages from the tow truck company under Business and Professions Code Section 17200. That, in case you don’t recognize it, is California’s Unfair Competition Law, the very law that CJAC and business groups successfully curbed in 2004 via the voter-approved Proposition 64.
Whaddaya mean, hypocrisy, Hiestand says, after the jump.
“It’s hysterical,” said Timothy Blood, a Coughlin Stoia partner who specializes in UCL suits. “The whole PR campaign during Prop 64 was that 17200 was driving businesses out of California. So what does [Hiestand] do? He sues a small business.”
“We’ve never said that all class actions are meritless,” Hiestand said. When you’ve exhausted all your other administrative options, they’re a viable choice, he said.
And just to show he’s not some money-hungry litigant, Hiestand pledged to give any award money left over from paying his costs to “fighting frivolous class action lawsuits.”
“I’m pleased we won this pledge before the plaintiffs’ lawyers got to him with a membership request,” CJAC President John Sullivan said in an email.
So here’s the back story: Hiestand said he and his family were driving home from his son’s basketball practice one Sunday night when the teenager’s growling stomach led them on a search for fast food in downtown Sacramento. But they couldn’t find a designated parking place.
Hiestand said he finally found a street spot, albeit one marked “no parking.” He knew he risked a ticket but figured the family would spend less than an hour inside the eatery. He made sure he wasn’t blocking a driveway or access to a fire hydrant and left the car.
Sure enough, when Hiestand returned, his car was gone, towed to a far-flung lot that was closed to the public until Monday. Long story short, Hiestand said the cops illegally towed his car because state law requires the city to post signs warning would-be illegal parkers that their vehicles will be towed. And there were no such signs where Hiestand parked.
“Sacramento has apparently been thumbing their nose at the law,” he said.
Hiestand may be dead serious about his lawsuit, but others have been left searching for humor in the situation.
“I was concerned this might happen,” CJAC’s Sullivan said. “Fred has been fighting against frivolous lawsuits for decades, and like a doctor fighting malaria, he’s become infected himself — and with the worse strain of the disease — class actions."
— Cheryl Miller
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