ADA Litigation Nightmares to Continue for Many California Business Owners

Committee Votes Down SB 1142 Proposal for Needed ADA Reform
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Yesterday, Senate Bill 1142, presented by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), was voted down on a 2-4 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee with Senators Anderson and Moorlach supporting the bill, and Senator Hertzberg abstaining. SB 1142  would allow small business owners – many of whom are “mom-and-pop” businesses – a “right to cure” within 120 days any identified non-compliance of the Construction-Related Accessibility Standards Compliance Act or Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This bill would initially protect targeted businesses from penalties and attorney's fees before an expensive lawsuit can be filed, as long as they fixed their ADA problem. Additionally, where there is conflict between the federal rule and the California rule, the federal rule will preempt the California rule.

"Small businesses are the bedrock of our local communities. There are too many accounts of exploitive ADA lawsuit abuses to turn a blind eye to what's happening in our own backyard," said Moorlach. "Instead of encouraging businesses to work toward compliance with ADA standards, California has created a climate where it is lucrative to sue businesses, receive a quick settlement, and move on to the next victim. SB 1142 offered hope to those small businesses who truly want to comport. Sadly, with no 'right to cure' protection, many California businesses will be forced to close their doors after their finances have been drained from targeted litigation."

All over the state of California, serial plaintiffs and a select and frequent group of law firms are filing lawsuits against businesses for failure to be in compliance with the ADA. Rather than work to fix the non-compliance issues, many ADA suits are intended to extort a quick settlement from the businesses they target, rather than seeking for actual compliance, sometimes driving them out of business in order to pay. Despite legislation over the years to marginally address ADA compliance lawsuits, this problem continues and business owners need a clear "right to cure" provision in law to protect themselves and give them a chance to fix any legitimate construction defects.

"A majority of these lawsuits are being brought by a small group of attorneys and plaintiffs that have been able to find a lucrative exploitation of the law for their own gain," Moorlach said. "There is no point in having ADA compliance standards if there are no businesses left to implement them."

SB 1142 was supported by Civil Justice Association of California, Californians Against Lawsuit Abuse, California Apartment Association, CSAC Excess Insurance Authority, California Retailers Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and California Chamber of Commerce.

SB 1142's two key witnesses were Rachelle Golden, an attorney from the city of Fresno, and Martha Perez, a restaurant owner from the city of Jackson.