Friday, March 6, 2015

“The original intent of the ADA was a good one — to ensure businesses provide accommodations to their customers who have disabilities,” she said. “The law was not designed to be a get-rich-quick scheme for predatory lawyers.”

Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen and ADA Reform - COMSTOCK'S

Almost three decades after the implementation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, many California companies are still finding themselves embroiled in lawsuits or out of business altogether over alleged ADA violations.

With that in mind, Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen has made ADA reform a pillar of her legislative agenda. Olsen, who represents Modesto, is one of three Central Valley lawmakers this session to file bills aimed at curbing predatory ADA lawsuits. Her proposal, Assembly Bill 54, would give small businesses 60 days to cure an alleged violation if it is related to a construction standard that changed in the past three years.

...There are over 2,500 ADA-related building requirements currently on the books, making it a significant challenge for many businesses to keep up. The law has also created a cottage industry for lawyers and others who use it to effectively shake down an allegedly noncompliant business by demanding money in exchange for not filing a lawsuit. Even if an accusation is unjustified, many small businesses pay up anyway because it is cheaper than the legal fees necessary to defend themselves in court. Other business owners without the cash to either make expensive building upgrades or pay off litigious attorneys simply close their doors for good.

To combat that, California lawmakers have enacted a handful of reforms over the years to discourage such predatory litigation. The last came a few years ago when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill barring lawyers who send businesses “pay or litigate” letters from demanding a specific dollar figure. Results have been decidedly mixed: preemptive payment demand letters are down, but actual lawsuits are way up.