Lawyer Litigation, Lawyer
Written by Edward Lai

Small Businesses Get Protection from Disability Access Litigation

The State of California has passed a law in hopes to help small businesses who have lawsuits filed against them under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Under the ADA, persons who have a disability can sue a small business if they encounter a barrier that causes them to suffer injury, discomfort or embarrassment.

After the passing of the ADA, the number of these lawsuits has risen considerably.  Recently, the lawmakers of California saw it fit to try to slow down ADA litigation, while at the same time, making sure that the new laws do not measurably block access for the disabled. The numbers show that while California has about 12% of the disabled people in the country, the state is responsible for over 40% of the nation’s ADA lawsuits.

The new law, Senate Bill 269, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, states that the state will allow small businesses a small grace period to resolve any certain construction related barrier claims before any litigation can proceed.  Gov. Brown hopes that this new law, which is currently in effect, will make it harder for claims of common technical violations, like faded paint on parking lots to broken disabled parking signs, which many disabled litigants have routinely asserted in their ADA lawsuits.

So what does the new law state?  In general, it provides small business a 15 day window to correct most alleged ADA violations.  If the business complies within the 15 day window, the business will not be subject to the usual statutory monetary fines and attorney’s fees.   Under this new law, a “small business” is defined as a business that has 25 or less employees on staff, as well as gross annual receipts that total less than $3.5 million over the past three years.

The new law also gives these small businesses 120 days to fix any ADA violations that are found by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp). The CASp will first inspect the property and then give a formal report to the business owner.  If the violations of Code are repaired within a prescribed time period, the business will not be liable for any monetary statutory penalties or attorney’s fees.

However, finding the right CASp for your business might be difficult.  Also, determining if there are, in fact, ADA violations, or if any exceptions apply, as well as whether repairs have been properly completed, can be confusing, costly and time consuming.  If you or someone you know need to consult with a lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced in handling ADA matters, please call 510-397-8287 or email us at elai@edwardlailaw.com

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