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California Passes Law to Curb ADA Lawsuit Abuse

September 25, 2012

News source: Highland Community News at

A bipartisan effort between Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to curb frivolous lawsuits filed under the guise of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown.

With the signature of Governor Brown, SB 1186 is the end of a two-year effort by Senator Dutton that not only brought together Republicans and Democrats, but also members of the business and disability communities to protect small businesses in California and expand access to those with disabilities.

“There is a serious problem in California where unscrupulous attorneys are filing shakedown lawsuits against businesses in an effort to gain an easy payday with no intention of improving access for the disabled community,” Senator Dutton said. “I’m pleased the governor saw the importance of signing SB 1186 to help curb these abuses and develop additional tools for businesses to ensure their establishments meet the requirements of the ADA.

“I’d also like to thank Senator Steinberg for his efforts to help me bring the different stakeholders together to develop this very important piece of legislation,” Senator Dutton continued. “This is a great example of everyone – Republicans and Democrats, along with members of the business and disabled communities - working together to solve a problem that will benefit everyone in this state.”

Some of the main provisions of SB 1186 include:

  • If a businesses is in a location that was completed after Jan. 1, 2008 or any business in California that has received a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) inspection, that business will have 60 days to fix that violation and their statutory damages may be reduced from $4,000 to $1,000 – a 75 percent reduction.
  • Small businesses with 25 or fewer employees that have not had a CASp inspection will have 30 days to fix a violation and can see their statutory damages reduced from $4,000 to $2,000 – a 50 percent reduction.
  • SB 1186 ends “demand for money” letters from attorneys. Letters can still be sent to a business alerting them of a potential violation or infraction, but that letter can’t include a “demand for money”. Attorneys sending those letters will be required to also send a copy of the letter to the California State Bar, who will examine the letter to make sure it meets the requirements of the law.
  • Attorneys will also be required to send a copy of letters sent to businesses to the California Commission on Disabilities (CCDA). They will be required to compile a “Top 10” list of violations to be posted on their website by July 1, 2013 and also a list of those attorneys and law firms who are filing the bulk of the lawsuits.
  • SB 1186 provides an avenue for local cities and counties to expand the CASp program in their communities, to help bring local businesses into ADA compliance and develop tools to help educate the business community in expanding ADA access.

Because SB 1186 includes an urgency clause the just signed piece of legislation, which passed out of the Senate on a 34-3 vote and 77-0 in the Assembly, will go into effect immediately.

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