Following the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse in 2015, the Legislature enacted California Senate Bill 465 which commissioned the Contractors State License Board (“CSLB” or “Board”) to perform a study regarding the efficacy of having contractors report settlements to the Board. In December 2017 the CSLB released their findings in a report. The ultimate conclusion of the report is to recommend to the Legislature that the ability of the CSLB to protect the public “would be enhanced by regulations requiring licensees to report judgments, arbitration awards, or settlement payments of construction defect claims for rental residential units.” Senator Jerry Hill authored SB465, and his office is presently now drafting legislation on settlement reporting based in part on this study.
The most troubling concern about the study is transparency. The report references nine exhibits, all of which have been withheld from publication under purposes of confidentiality. Therefore, much of the CSLB’s study must be taken at face value because much of the data they rely on to formulate their conclusions cannot be independently verified.
One of the factors that the CSLB undertook in its study was to determine criteria for when a settlement was “nuisance value,” and therefore less important for reporting purposes. The CSLB acknowledged there was no industry-wide definition for “nuisance value,” whether it be in the insurance industry, construction industry, or otherwise. Insurer survey respondents reached a general consensus on aspects of what can constitute a “nuisance value” settlement, including the amount of the settlement and the size of the case. However, the response rate to the insurer survey was only 3.3 percent. In general, the concern with using settlement amount and size of the case as indicative factors is the fact that a large settlement size, for instance, may still constitute a “nuisance value” settlement. One example would be a large settlement figure in a case involving hundreds of homes in multiple subdivisions.