TAHOE/TRUCKEE — A new law will protect California businesses, especially small-business owners, from frivolous lawsuits filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Associated Press reported last week.
Gov. Jerry Brown announced last Wednesday he signed SB1186 by Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and Republican Sen. Bob Dutton.
The bill takes aim at predatory lawsuits related to the federal law. It bans so-called “demand letters,” according to the AP, in which lawyers threaten to sue over a possible violation unless a business pays thousands of dollars to settle. It also prevents lawyers from stacking multiple claims for the same violation as a way to increase payouts.
According to a recent column in the Tahoe Daily Tribune from B Gorman, president and CEO of TahoeChamber.org, the bill — parts of which take effect immediately — includes provisions that should ease the burden on business in the following ways:
• Bans the dreaded practice known as “demand for money” letters from attorneys; letters can still be sent to alert businesses of potential infractions and violations.
• Attorneys must send a copy of their letters to the California State Bar and the California Commission on Disabilities. This ensures legal standards are met while keeping track of attorneys filing the bulk of the lawsuits.
• Provides an avenue for communities to expand their Certified Access Specialist, or CASp inspection programs, giving businesses an opportunity to be proactive in becoming ADA compliant. A CASp is certified by the State to create accessibility plans for businesses to follow in becoming compliant.
• The bill reduces statutory damages by as much as 75 percent by putting new provisions into place to prevent “stacking” of multiple claims and provides litigation protections for defendants whose violations are corrected.