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California Senate Bill 585 Aims to Quell the Surge in ADA Lawsuits Against Small Businesses

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 has long stood to prevent businesses and others from discriminating against persons with disabilities through various measures. While the spirit of the ADA law is sound, several states like California have seen a recent surge in lawyers and serial plaintiffs use of the Act as a means to extort money from those who are often small business owners. The California legislature has taken note and recently introduced Senate Bill 585, which seeks to contain the surge in these types of cases and allow businesses the opportunity to cure any purported violations before facing mounting exposure.

Congressman Scott D. Wiener, D—San Francisco, was recently quoted in the Daily Journal saying: “The number of boilerplate AADA cases filed by just a few serial litigants, and even fewer law firms, have continued to explode, targeting individuals of marginalized communities with limited access to justice and solely for the purpose of demanding monetary settlements.” [See Daily Journal Article published May 3, 2023, “Attorney ‘snitch’ bill passes Senate Judiciary Committee” authored by Skyler Romero.]

The typical case involves a disabled person visiting a retail location and encountering a “construction-related” barrier that the person claims prevented them from enjoying the goods or services offered by that location. Often, these individuals do not even have the intent of purchasing the goods or services offered by the location. Instead, what immediately follows is a lawsuit claiming damages for, among other things, attorneys’ fees, which are authorized under the ADA for such violations. Even if the ADA claim is unmeritorious, the business owner faces a dilemma: (i) incur the expenses of fighting the claim in court and risk significant exposure for the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees, which grow exponentially as a case progresses; or (ii) pay a nominal settlement amount at the outset, usually in the range of $5,000 and $15,000, to resolve the case. Good business judgment usually leads small business owners to pay out the settlement to resolve the case and avoid increasing cost and exposure.

Senate Bill 585, if passed, would require potential filers of construction-related ADA claims to provide a demand letter to the business owner and wait 120 days for the business to correct the alleged violation before filing a lawsuit. This, in effect, would quell the surge in these types of cases by giving business owners an opportunity to correct any purported violations before being dragged into court and extorted out of thousands of dollars.

We help business like yours fight back against lawsuits like ADA claims and other business torts. Contact us today for the legal assistance you need.

This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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