The Senate Bill 1186, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, and effective as of September 19, 2012, offers California business owners protection against potentially expensive, predatory lawsuits that involve disability access law. The purpose of the law was to simultaneously increase disability access and cut down on "shake down" demands and unnecessary litigation in relation to disability access claims.
Becoming familiar with the law and the protection that it provides is a good idea for both southern California property owners and business owners. Specifically, it specifies new requirements for demand letters citing disability access law violations.
Protections Instituted by Law as of Sept. 19, 2012 Include:
Prevents attorneys from sending demand letters requesting money in lieu of the filing of a lawsuit.
Requires sufficient detail regarding alleged violations for those reading it to identify the specific instance or circumstance.
Requires that a form written advisory be included along with any demand letter (previously it was only required with the filing of a complaint).
Requires the submission of both demand letters and complaints to the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA) and the California State Bar.
In addition, the new law offers southern California businesses monetary relief for violations that were unintentional as long as they are willing to make appropriate corrections in order to comply with requirements for disability access. According to the law, the minimum statutory damages for each unintentional violation went from $4,000 to $2,000 (as long as the defendant qualifies as a "small" business and corrects alleged violations within 30 days of complaint service). Meeting additional qualifications could qualify some businesses cited for unintentional disability access violations to take advantage of a reduction down to $1,000. For more information on qualifying for the $1,000 minimum statutory damages for an unintentional violation, contact an experienced southern California business and real estate law attorney.
Additional protections include a stay of litigation and an early evaluation conference (in certain qualifying circumstances), protection against multiple claims for the same violation (reasonableness of plaintiffs' conduct should now be taken into consideration regarding mitigation of damages in order to prevent intentional attempts to access the same property multiple times in order to enhance a claim), and requirements for commercial property owners to state in lease agreements whether the property received an inspection by CASp.
If you have questions about legal protections offered to combat serial plaintiffs and predatory practices by ADA practitioners, please get in touch with one of the experienced business and real estate attorneys at The Law Office of Retz & Aldover LLP.