A new bill moving through the California legislature would make it significantly more difficult for lawyers to sue California business owners for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
By a 4-1 vote, the state Senate Judiciary Committee passed on May 8 SB 1186, which would require attorneys to send a 30-day notice to businesses, listing all construction-related ADA violations, before filing a lawsuit, according to an article by the California Legal Newsline. It would also ban so-called “demand for money” letters, which are used by lawyers to settle ADA cases with businesses.
For disability advocacy groups such as Disability Rights California, the bill’s exclusive focus on the ADA “establishes a different standard for people with disabilities to enforce their civil rights.”
“Federal and state disability access laws and regulations are vital to the promotion of the total integration of people with disabilities into social and economic life. Further, California access laws and policies have been in effect for decades and full compliance by businesses still falls significantly short of what is required,” the organization stated in a May 3 letter. “Since information regarding the requirements of the law is widespread and available, there is no excuse that compliance is so often dependent on individual complaints and lawsuits.”
Disability Rights California does support a part of the bill that would require lease forms and rental forms to notify businesses about their obligations to create ADA accessible facilities.
ADA legislation has long been a contentious issue in Calfornia. About 40 percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits are filed there.
The most recent major bill passed by the California legislature to decrease ADA legislation went into effect in January 2009. That bill created a streamlined court procedure for businesses that are sued for ADA violations, despite hiring a certified access specialist to inspect their facilities.
In March, Sen. Dianne Feinsten, one of the nation’s most prominent Democrats, called on the state Senate to curb certain practice among lawyers who work to make businesses come into compliance with the ADA. She threatened to bring federal legislation if the state is unable to pass new measures, according to the Legal Newsline article.
“The shakedown tactics used by these lawyers may place a financial strain on businesses and counterproductively leave them unable to afford to make required access improvements,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
Disability Rights California is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.