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Real ADA lawsuit abuse reform has eluded California business owners for years. Will 2017 be any different?

Updated May 7, 2017: AB 150 didn’t even make it out of its first policy committee. Click here for an update.

Assembly Bill 150 to the Rescue?

On January 10, 2017, Assembly Member Devon Mathis introduced Assembly Bill 150. The bill seeks to address the overwhelming number of ADA lawsuits against small businesses. These lawsuits all allege that a business or property owner denied a disabled person access to a public accommodation.

AB 150 would give small businesses a chance to remedy their alleged ADA non-compliance before being liable for damages under California law.

Specifically, AB 150 proposes that two conditions must be met before an ADA plaintiff can file an action against a small business.

First, the plaintiff must provide the business with notice of the violation at least six months prior to filing the complaint, including all details of the alleged violation and specifying how the violation can be rectified.

Additionally, the defendant must fail to make a good faith effort to correct the issue within the six-month period before the plaintiff can proceed with lawsuit.

ADA Lawsuit Abuse Continues Unabated

This bill acts in response to the widespread criticism that existing ADA and disability laws are being abused.

Professional ADA plaintiffs claim that access for disabled persons is their primary motivation. I strongly believe that ADA plaintiffs are taking advantage of the system in order to make a profit.

In fact, just a few law firms are responsible for a majority of ADA lawsuits in California. My office has discovered over 2,500 ADA lawsuits filed just in 2016 alone.

The six-month grace period proposed by AB 150 would give small businesses the opportunity to improve access. The bill would also prevent prolific ADA plaintifs from profiting off of small business owners.

Does AB 150 Stand a Chance?

Forces in the California Legislature are strongly opposed to AB 150. In particular, the analysis of the Assembly Judiciary Committee raises concerns about the duration of the notice, believing six months to be exceptionally long. The Judiciary Committee also notes that the measure may unfairly single out disabled individuals by imposing additional barriers to the enforcement of their civil rights.

However, the Judiciary Committee’s analysis ignores the reality on the ground for business owners throughout the state. Opponents to AB 150 do not address the extortionary nature of current ADA litigation. These lawsuits can cost a business owner tens of thousands of dollars, even when the allegations in the lawsuit are minor and technical in nature.

While this bill, like similar ones before it, will almost certainly never become law, it is heartening that this issue continues to capture the attention of some lawmakers. Hopefully it won’t be long before a balance is struck between the civil rights of disabled individuals and the protection of small business from predatory ADA litigation.

Have you been sued by a predatory ADA plaintiff or law firm? Please call my office at (916) 333-2222 to discuss your options.