Proposed Legislation to Fix ADA Violations
New legislation has been introduced by a Southern California lawmaker in an effort to cut down on the number of frivolous disability-access lawsuits brought in our state of California against business owners. State Senator John Moorlach of Costa Mesa, CA says that his bill, SB 1142, would provide property owners and businesses with the “right to cure” within 120 days of any Americans with Disabilities Act violation. This would therefore allow the business to make changes without incurring a penalty or being threatened with litigation.
The bill would also state that a business owner is not liable for statutory damages, costs, or plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees if the violation is corrected within 120 days of the service of a demand letter. Currently California law allows a plaintiff to collect statutory damages in a construction-related accessibility claim against a place of public accommodation “only if a violation of a construction-related accessibility standard denied the plaintiff full and equal access to the place of public accommodation on a particular occasion, as specified.” In addition, a business owner’s liability for statutory damages in a construction-related accessibility claim against a place of public accommodation is reduced to a minimum of:
- $1,000 for each offense, provided the defendant demonstrates that it has corrected all construction-related violations that are the basis of a claim within 60 days of being served with the complaint and meets certain requirements; or
- A minimum of $2,000 for each offense if the defendant has corrected al construction-related violations that are the basis of a claim within 30 days of being served with the complaint and is a small business.
Moorlach says that rental property owners are typically targeted and the result is the loss of thousands of dollars for minor or technical ADA violations. The bill would serve as a deterrent to frivolous litigation that seeks to take advantage of statutory damages for minor violations that have not caused any harm.
In addition to SB 1142, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto and Senator Richard Roth, D-Riverside have also proposed legislation in the current session aimed at curbing abusive ADA lawsuits.
“This is the first time that the Legislature as a whole is really recognizing that abusive ADA lawsuits exist, and that there are lawsuits that are more about money than justice,” remarked Kim Stone, the president of the California Civil Justice Association, in The Modesto Bee.
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