New laws for 2003 |

New laws for 2003

Well we are finally getting around to highlighting a few of the more than 1000 new bills signed into law in 2002.

Construction defects

Contractors and developers selling new homes must comply with SB 800, which we briefed several weeks ago. Builders have the right to repair construction defects before a homeowner can sue. The deadlines to sue for different construction defects have been changed depending on the type of claim e.g., electrical, plumbing, roofing. Buyers of new homes must be given warranties. Generals should change their contracts to require subs to comply with SB 800. This is an “ugly” law.

Inmate DNA

A controversial measure allows law enforcement and prison officials to use reasonable force to collect blood and saliva samples from inmates to obtain DNA profiles to enter into the State’s DNA data base. The data is used to match suspects with biological evidence from unsolved crimes. I smile every time I read a case where a criminal is belatedly brought to justice from DNA evidence.

Domestic partners

Registered domestic partners may now inherit property under the same in testate (no will) succession laws as married couples.

Gun liability

A pair of bills repeals the special immunity from lawsuits granted to gun makers by the legislature in 1983.

The new laws were proposed after the California Supreme Court held that the maker of the fingerprint resistant weapons used in San Francisco’s 101 California massacre could not be held liable because of the special immunity. I support the repeal, but question the right to hold gun manufacturers responsible for crimes committed by their guns, unless the gun is a type designed and marketed for no good purposes.


Three new landlord and tenant bills were passed, which we previously wrote up in the Law Review.

Damages for bad faith retention of a security deposit have been increased from $600 to twice the amount of the security.

In another, an owner of residential property with a month-to-month tenancy must give at least 60 days’ notice prior to terminating the tenancy if the tenant has resided on the property for more than one year. In the third bill, tenants have the right to have the landlord inspect the premises just prior to termination.

Childhood sexual abuse

Senate Pro Tem John Burton has had a busy year.

One of his new bills extends the deadline to sue for childhood sexual abuse against a knowledgeable, involved third party who is not the perpetrator of the sexual abuse.

What prominent church was he thinking of?

Gender violence

There is now a civil cause of action for victims of gender violence.

Cable companies

An addition to the civil code requirements for retailers and cable TV companies to agree with consumers to a 4-hour period within which a delivery, service, or repair will take place, and increases to $600 the total amount of damages that a small claims court can award for violation of these laws.

Auto accidents

In one of the few significant new laws enacted in 2002, the one-year deadline to sue for a personal injury, wrongful death or assault and battery has been extended from one year to two years.

The change applies to accidents after Jan. 1, 2003, but retroactively to victims of 9-11.

So if you are injured in an auto accident, you have two years to sue, like Nevada and most states.

Skateboard parks

A change to the health and safety code extends to Jan. 1, 2008, the sunset date for laws protecting public skateboard parks from liability for injuries suffered for persons 14 years of age or older.

Weapons of mass destruction

Several new laws expand the definition of weapons of mass destruction – none tell President Bush where to find them in Iraq.


The definition of stalking deletes the requirement that a defendant must have intended to cause fear to a victim, and requires instead that a stalker reasonably should have known that his or her conduct would place the victim in reasonable fear.

Domestic violence

There are at least a dozen new laws generally expanding the crimes of domestic violence as well as child abuse and elder abuse.

Sick leave

Employers may not discipline or demote employees who use sick leave to attend to an illness of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner.

American flag

Local government agencies may not prohibit or restrict an employee of the agency from displaying an American flag or representation of a flag on his or her person or at his or her work place.

Jury duty

A change in the Code of Civil Procedures eliminates mileage reimbursement to trial court jurors for the first day of service, and increases the reimbursement rate beginning on the second day of service from 15 cents per mile to 34 cents per mile.

Exhibition of speed

Senator Perata’s bill allows for the impoundment of vehicles used in reckless driving or in “exhibition of speed” violations, so if you like your car, slow down.

Jet skiing at night

This law prohibits any person from operating a personal watercraft at any time between sunset and sunrise.


As we reported previously, if you are under 18 you must wear a helmet while operating a non-motorized scooter or skateboard, wearing in-line or roller skates, or riding as a passenger on a non-motorized scooter or skateboard.

Pet disclosure

Pet merchants, including retail chains, independent stores and salesmen at fairs, must provide a written description of the traits and tips on feeding and care for each pet they sell.

This wins my award for the most ridiculous law of 2002. I bet some legislator “feels good” about this piece of governmental intrusion.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at or at the firm’s web site

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