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California Assembly Puts Limits on ADA LawsuitsBills were presented to the California Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in order to curtail the amount of so-called “frivolous” Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits. California has its own version of the ADA written into the California Building Code and the California Civil Code. This version exceeds the Federal ADA and has been called more vague and problematic. It also does not include a readily- achievable clause, which allows small businesses certain additional allowances.
Forty percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits are filed in California. As a result concern has developed because it seems that some lawyers are using these lawsuits as a way to make a ‘quick buck’ instead of trying to push compliance. The California law allows a minimum of $4,000 to be paid per violation per day plus attorney’s fees for ADA violation lawsuits. Lawyers have been found to be sending ‘Pay now or Pay Later’ letters where the lawyer demands payment to make them go away and the violation is often left unfixed. Others have filed lawsuits in the name of previous clients without their knowledge. US Senator Dianne Feinstein urged California legislators to get a handle on the situation earlier this year. She threatened that she would consider taking action on the federal level if it was not solved.
Assembly Bill 1878 was introduced by Assemblywoman Beth Gaines(R). The bill is intended to address the needs of small businesses and says before a business could be sued they must first be given written notification of the violation and allowed to create a plan with Certified Access Specialist (CasP) or given 120 days to comply. Of course, the laws they would be given time to comply with has been in place for more than 20 years. This bill was voted down 3 to 7. The Senate Bill 1163 by Mimi Walters(R) and the Assembly Bill 1610 by Donald Wagner (R) were also introduced. They were similar but included a longer amount of time for compliance.
Senate Bill 1186 was introduced by Democrat Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and former Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga. Though considered to be still a ‘work in progress’ it bans lawyers from sending letters demanding money and prevents money from being paid before a complaint is filed. It also requires lawyers to give written notification to the business owner 30 days prior to a claim being filed. This appears to give business owners 30 days to bring violations into compliance. This Bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 4-1 vote. Both Senators vowed to involve all interest groups in the development of the final version of the bill is passed. After that the bill would be sent to the Governor for his final approval.