I recently received my “Business Tax Renewal Notice” from the City of Sacramento. Unlike most other jurisdictions, the City of Sacramento does not issue traditional business permits. Instead, the City levies a Business Tax. I can’t tell the difference. But that’s not the point of this blog!

The City of Sacramento did something new this year. The City included a “Notice to Applicants for Business Licenses and Commercial Building Permits” along with my annual tax bill. The notice is dated December 26, 2018. This is apparently an effort to comply with the provisions of Assembly Bill 3002 that was signed into law in 2018.

The City’s notice is specifically related to ADA compliance! This is a great idea. The notice gives a very primitive overview of the ADA. The notice also tells the applicant that ADA laws impose a “serious and significant responsibility.”

The City’s ADA notice also discusses the existence of the CASp inspection program, tax credits, and provides helpful links to relevant government websites.

I talk to about a dozen California business owners and landlords each week about ADA lawsuits. Most of these people tell me that they did not understand the true scope of the ADA and its requirements. Most of these calls have never heard of CASp inspectors, nor were they aware that non-compliance could result in litigation. A lot of folks are frustrated that their local government officials aren’t doing more to educate businesses about ADA requirements.

I think the City of Sacramento is doing a great service by including this helpful notice along with all tax bills and building permit applications. Hopefully the recipients will take note of the notice. The three minutes it might take a person to read this notice could end up saving them tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses down the road. But that’s only if prompt action is taken. The best way to avoid ADA litigation is to ensure fully-accessible businesses.

I represent landlords and business owners throughout California that are faced with ADA lawsuits. Please contact my office at (916) 333-2222 to discuss steps that you can take to avoid ADA litigation before it is too late.

Happy New Year! 2019 is going to be a great year, unless you are a small business owner or property owner in Sacramento or the bay area. Why is that? Because Scott Johnson is very likely to sue you in 2019 for ADA violations. The numbers don’t lie.

Scott Johnson is a very prolific filer of ADA lawsuits

As best as I can tell, Scott Johnson filed a total of 532 ADA lawsuits in federal courts throughout California in 2018. That is about 44 cases each and every month. Scott’s first lawsuit was filed January 1, 2018 and his last batch was filed on December 28, 2018. As you can see, the man and his attorneys are very, very frequent users of our court system.

Keep in mind the United States District Court charges a $400 court filing fee for each new lawsuit. That means that Scott Johnson paid around $212,800 in court filing fees alone in 2018. I wonder how the court system feels about Scott Johnson given his largess.

Don’t be an easy target for Scott Johnson or his attorneys

Regrettably, Scott Johnson and his attorneys at the Potter Handy (aka the Center for Disability Access) have no trouble finding new businesses to sue for ADA violations. It it not uncommon for me to discuss these cases with people that have no idea that they are out of compliance until they are targeted by one of these ADA lawsuit.

Don’t be an easy victim. If you are a small business owner or a property owner, one of your 2019 resolutions should be to schedule a CASp inspection. A professional ADA site survey will help identify any accessibility problems — and a good inspector will help you find creative ways to solve these problems. Remember, only full ADA compliance will keep you out of court.

Scott Johnson isn’t the only one filing these ADA cases

Scott Johnson is easy to hold out as a perfect example of our broken disability access laws. This is because he files so many lawsuits year in and year out. However, he is not the only one doing this. An entire cottage industry of professional ADA litigants has developed and there is no end in sight.

Our political leaders in Sacramento will not take meaningful steps to stop these abusive lawsuits. I strongly recommend that people targeted by drive-by ADA filers to contact their State Assmeblyperson and State Senator. Our political leaders need to hear from real people just how troubling ADA lawsuit abuse really is.

Have you been targeted by Scott Johnson, the Center For Disability Access, Potter Handy, or others? Please contact my office at (916) 333-2222 to discuss your options.

One of the largest challenges that I face as an ADA Defense Attorney is that there are numerous myths and misconceptions about ADA compliance. The purpose of this blog post is to discuss one common myth.

Only Businesses that are Open to the Public Need to Comply with the ADA

The statement above is 100% accurate. Only places of “public accommodation” need to comply with ADA rules and regulations. The entire purpose of the ADA was to ensure that public places are equally accessible to persons with disabilities. Accordingly, a place must be open to the public to trigger ADA liability.

The opposite is also true. Places that are not open to the public are not required to comply with the ADA. As I will discuss below, a business can have public and non-public areas. The ADA rules are going to be different depending on the classification.

This is Where it gets Complicated

The confusing follows now that we understand that only public places are required to comply with the ADA. I receive several calls a month from a business owner being sued for ADA violations that claims that his or her business is not “open the public.” In my years of defending business owners, that statement has never ended up being true.

First, let’s discuss a few examples of businesses that are not open to the public. Think about a warehouse that just stores parts or materials. As long as customers and members of the public aren’t invited to the warehouse to transact business, the warehouse does not need to comply with the ADA. The same rule applies to a private office that is staffed solely by employees. As long as members of the public aren’t allowed into the office, there can be no ADA liability.

Next, let’s discuss a few examples of businesses that often do not consider themselves to be “open to the public” but who actually are. The most common excuse is that the business owner tells me that they are only open on an “appointment only” basis. This is still a public accommodation! A disabled person could easily ask for an appointment as easily as an able-bodied person could. Therefore, “appointment only” businesses still have to comply with the ADA. Another common excuse is that the business “does most of its business online” or “we always go our customer, they never come to us.” After doing some prying, I usually end up discovering that those statement’s aren’t entirely accurate. As long as a member of the public is allowed to visit the facility, ADA rules are triggered.

If your business is truly “closed to the public,” there is no ADA liability. But as you can see, that analysis isn’t always straightforward, and it requires an honest assessment in order to be an effective shield to liability.

ADA Compliance isn’t All-or-Nothing

A business facility can have components that are open to the public and areas that are not open to the public. If a member of the public is allowed to a specific area of the facility, that area needs to be accessible. Therefore, ADA compliance is not required for areas of a business that aren’t open to the public.

The most common scenario are bathrooms. Bathrooms can be the most costly area of a business to retrofit for ADA compliance. However, most types of businesses are not required to provide restrooms. Generally, only places that serve food or are otherwise regulated by local health ordinances are required by law to provide restrooms.

As such, the easiest solution to an inaccessible bathroom is to simply close the restrooms to the public. This only works if you are not required to provide restrooms to patrons. But most of my clients are not required to do so. In other words, a $10 sign from Home Depot can save you a $50,000 bathroom remodel.

I represent business owners and landowners throughout the State of California that are sued for ADA violations. Please call my office at 916-333-2222 if you have any questions about ADA litigation. 

Most people know that Scott Johnson is from the Sacramento area. Specifically, Scott Johnson lives in Carmichael, California, a sleepy suburb of Sacramento. But geography does not stop Scott Johnson from filing his ADA lawsuits all over California.

Scott Johnson Has Been Very Busy in Santa Clara County

As evidenced by this report in the Los Altos Town Crier in which I was quoted, Scott Johnson has been very busy in Santa Clara County. Scott Johnson has been suing small businesses all over the county, including in San Jose, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, and other cities.

Almost no category of business has been safe from Scott Johnson. He has been suing convenience stores, furniture stores, fast food restaurants, motels and hotels, and small retail businesses.

On some days, we see Scott Johnson file over five federal lawsuits. This is an extremely high number of lawsuits for one individual to file in a single day. This repeats day after day. Scott Johnson appears to be filing most of his lawsuits in the Northern District of California which covers the Bay Area.

It is Time to Inspect Your Business for ADA Compliance

ADA plaintiffs such as Scott Johnson make no apologies for their targeting of small businesses. The absolute best strategy for avoiding these lawsuits is to fully comply with the ADA.

I strongly recommend that all business owners and commercial landlords obtain bi-annual CASP reports. If you don’t already know, CASP reports are accessibility surveys performed by state-licensed inspectors. A good CASP report will highlight any accessibility deficiencies. Without this knowledge, a business owner or landlord really has no roadmap to ADA compliance.

Always Start Working on the Outside

It is no secret that a vast majority of ADA lawsuits are filed over the lack of accessible parking. Why is that? Because a plaintiff can see the lack of ADA parking from outer space on Google Maps! The lack of ADA parking leaves businesses vulnerable to drive-by ADA lawsuits. Why make it so easy for these professional plaintiffs?

Don’t forget about required ADA parking signage. It is not sufficient to have the correct ADA parking spaces striped. People like Scott Johnson commonly file lawsuits over incorrect signage, slopes, and paths of travel.

Have you been served with an ADA lawsuit? Call my office today at (916) 333-2222 to discuss your options.

ADA compliance guidelines are in constant flux. One example of the ever-adapting rules is truncated domes, also known as tactile paving or detectable warning surfaces.

Truncated domes refer to the (often yellow) set of raised bumps on a pathway or platform. Truncated domes alert visually impaired individuals of surface changes and other potential hazards.

If you are a business owner with truncated domes installed on your property, you may still be in violation of ADA standards!

A History of ADA Guidelines for Truncated Domes

Beginning in 1991, ADA guidelines required the domes to have a nominal 0.9-inch diameter, nominal 0.2-inch height, and nominal 2.35-inch center to center spacing.

Both the Federal Code and the State of California Building Code (CBC) changed in 2010. The California state requirements then specified that while the base diameter must be 0.9 inches, the top diameter must be 0.45 inches. The Federal Code also newly specified a 0.65-inch minimum base to base spacing between adjacent domes. This was in addition to the already existing center-to-center spacing requirements.

Even further, the 2010 CBC change required truncated dome sections to occupy the entire length and width of a curb ramp, doubling the amount of panels previously required.

Where are truncated domes required?

In California, the detectable warning panels must be installed in the following situations:

  • Platform Boarding Edges
  • Curb Ramps
  • Islands or Cut-through Medians
  • Bus Stops (between the pad and the road)
  • Hazardous Vehicular Areas: “If a walk crosses or adjoins a vehicular way, and the walking surfaces are not separated by warning curbs, railings or other elements between the pedestrian areas and vehicular areas, the boundary between the areas shall be defined by a continuous detectable warning.” (CBC 11B-705.1.2.5)
  • Reflecting pools: “The edges of reflecting pools shall be protected by railings, walls, warning curbs or detectable warnings.” (CBC 11B-705.1.2.6)

Individuals do not have to be visually impaired in order to file a lawsuit regarding the truncated domes. If the spacing or size of your truncated domes is not in accordance with the CBC, those who are mobility impaired can claim that the domes are acting as a barrier to their entry.

As you can see, ADA compliance is tricky and full of traps for the uninformed.

Due to the increase in ADA lawsuits filed in recent years, business owners should verify that their detectable warning systems are up to code.

I represent business owners and property owners throughout the State of California that are faced with ADA lawsuits. Contact my office at (916) 333-2222 if you have been served with an ADA lawsuit or ADA demand.

I have been watching Assembly Bill 150 since Assembly Member Assembly Member Devon Mathis introduced the bill.

AB 150 would provide some badly needed reform to California’s ADA laws.

Unfortunately, AB 150 did not make it very far. A brief history is in order: Assembly Member Assembly Member Mathis introduced AB 150 January 10, 2017. The bill was referred to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary where it immediately received a frosty reception.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has been very hostile to ADA reform legislation for years. The committee treated AB 150 no differently.

Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 3 to 6 to pass the bill. This means that the bill did not advance from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

As you can see, the bill did not make it out of its first policy committee. The very liberal California Legislature apparently does not want to help reform this area of that law despite ample evidence of professional ADA mills abusing the law solely for profit.

Until the California Legislature passes meaningful ADA reform, these abusive lawsuits will continue. As such, business owners and landowners cannot expect legislative relief to these problems.

If you own a business or rent space to commercial tenants, you must take immediate action to ensure that your property fully complies with the ADA. Failing to act will almost surely result in a lawsuit.

I represent business owners and landowners throughout the State of California in ADA lawsuits. Please contact me at (916) 333-2222 if you have been served with an ADA lawsuit or ADA demand letter.

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.

The Modesto Bee wrote an article over the weekend that chronicles the continuing problems business owners are having over ADA lawsuits.

The author Garth Stapley called my office for comment last week. I was more than happy to help Mr. Stapley with the research for his article. His findings aren’t surprising.

Reform Efforts Have Lead Nowhere

Business and property owners call my office every week with news of a new ADA lawsuit. If the California Legislature had truly “solved” the problem of ADA abuse, these people would not be calling.

Instead, the Legislature has passed meaningless reforms that have chipped away at the edges of this problem. Politicians get to pat themselves on the back and issue press releases, all the while real Californians have to deal with these shakedown lawsuits.

In most cases, creative trial lawyers have found ways around some of the “fixes” instituted by the Legislature. A great example of this is the 2012 prohibition on sending pre-litigation demand letters. In response, Plaintiffs simply stopped sending demand letters and now just head straight to court. This in turn raises litigation costs on both sides. Only ADA plaintiffs and their attorneys have benefited from this reform!

ADA is the Law of the Land

As a business or property owner, you cannot count on elected officials in California to solve the ADA lawsuit abuse problem.

Instead, business and property owners must take proactive steps to ensure that ADA laws are followed. A non-compliant business is just asking to be sued these days.

Where to start? I strongly recommend CASp inspections. A CASp inspection will identify any ADA issues. A good inspector will also tell the business owner exactly how to remedy the access violation.

At the end of the day, the ADA is not going away. Nor are serial ADA plaintiffs. Making our businesses as accessible as possible is not only the law, but also makes good business and moral sense as well.

I represent business and property owners all over California that have been sued by predatory ADA plaintiffs. Please call my office at (916) 333-2222 to schedule a consultation to discuss your ADA lawsuit.

I follow ADA lawsuit abuse very carefully because ADA defense is a large part of my legal practice.

Recently, one prolific plaintiff’s ADA law firm changed their name. And it looks like the main attorney filing their lawsuits has changed as well.

Zacarach Best is a Plaintiff’s ADA Attorney

Previously, The Moore Law Firm signed all of their pleadings under Tanya Moore’s name. This makes sense because Tanya Moore is the principal owner of The Moore Law Firm.

Now that their law firm has changed names, it looks like Zachary Best is signing their complaints (new lawsuits).

This has created some confusion because it does not look like Tanya Moore’s name can be found on any new ADA lawsuits in Northern California.

Whether this is a coincidence or not is something that I do not know.

Zachary Best is Likely Suing You Over Alleged ADA Violations

Just like The Moore Law Firm, the Mission Law Firm and Zachary Best primarily practice plaintiff’s ADA litigation.

This means that the Mission Law Firm finds small businesses that have violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and then sue those small businesses.

Violations can be minor such as an incorrect door handle or lack of appropriate tow-away signage. On the other hand, ADA violations can be quite complex, including lack of accessible bathrooms or entrances.

Big or small, even a single minor technical violation of the ADA will give an aggressive ADA plaintiff standing to sue a business or landlord.

Only Compliance With The ADA Will Stop These Lawsuits

The California Legislature has shown absolute hostility to meaningful ADA reform. Since we cannot count on our elected leaders to reform our laws to prevent ADA lawsuit abuse, it is up to business owners and landowners to protect themselves.

I strongly recommend that all business owners throughout California obtain a CASp inspection of their property. These inspections will highlight accessibility issues. Don’t rely on “common sense” or “best efforts” to comply with the ADA – it just isn’t good enough.

ADA lawsuits are very serious business. If you have been sued by Zachary Best, the Mission Law Firm, or the Tanya Moore Law Firm, please call my office at (916) 333-2222 to discuss your options.

Back in December I wrote that Tanya Moore was in the news because 60 Minutes profiled ADA lawsuit abuse all over the country. In fact, Ms. Moore’s law firm was highlighted as one of the more prolific ADA filers in California.

What happened next? You might be surprised.

Who is the Mission Law Firm?

Perhaps in response to the bad publicity from 60 Minutes, it appears that Tanya Moore has changed the name of her law firm. Or it could just be a coincidence? You will have to make up your mind on that one. But the timing is rather suspicious.

Tanya Moore and her collection of attorneys and professional ADA plaintiffs are now calling themselves the “Mission Law Firm.”

What is the Mission Law Firm’s mission? It does not appear that the name change has been accompanied by any change in focus in the firm’s practice. The Mission Law Firm is still filing plenty of ADA lawsuits all over Northern California.

These ADA lawsuits continue to ravage small businesses throughout the state. Defendants in these cases have to take a careful look at their possible defenses and liability before moving forward with litigation. No matter who is suing, a principled and aggressive approach is required.

I haven’t changed the name of my law firm. I still defend businesses and landowners in these ADA cases. Please feel free to call my firm at (916) 333-2222 if you have any questions about ADA litigation in California.