Gag orders harder to get in January
December 13, 2012
Gag orders in legal settlements involving lawsuits against state-licensed professionals will no longer be legal in January. [California Watch]
The law will facilitate consumers’ contact with state agencies in cases where further disciplinary of corrective action might be called for.
In the past, secrecy in a settlement prevented successful plaintiffs from discussing details of their case with appropriate agencies or investigators. Now, negligence evidence against those who hold state licenses – pharmacists, physician assistants, accountants, veterinarians, and therapists – can be revealed to authorities.
Current law and court precedents already prohibit gag clauses for physicians and lawyers.
“They’re immoral,” said Julie D’Angelo Fellmeth, administrative director of the Center for Public Interest Law, told California Watch. Gag clauses “allow an unscrupulous person who is licensed by the state of California to hurt people, settle with them and then gag them so they are controlling the information that’s going to their own regulator.”
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, will apply to thousands of licensees regulated by the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill during his tenure.
Proponents of the new law said it will make the state “more business friendly” and is consistent with the public’s best interest.
“We think that gag clauses in settlement agreements are bad for the public,” said Virginia Herold, executive director of the state’s Board of Pharmacy. She supported the bill.