Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation designed to limit what advocates say is an abuse of disability access lawsuits, his office said this afternoon.
Senate Bill 1186, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Republican Sen.Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, will reduce potential damages for disability access violations from a minimum of $4,000 to as little as $1,000 if the defendant corrects violations quickly.
The bill would also bar lawyers from issuing pre-litigation “demands for money” and regulate complaints involving construction-related violations.
“The whole point of our state and federal disability access laws is to remove barriers for the disabled, giving them full and equal access to businesses like everyone else. Up until now unfortunately, it was often cheaper and quicker for business owners to settle out of court than to remove those obstacles,” Steinberg said in a prepared statement. “SB 1186 will instead provide more incentives to fix the violations and enhance accessibility. After many months of working with business and disability rights advocates, this compromise applies common sense to difficult issues.”
The bill enjoyed bipartisan support but was opposed by Disability Rights California.
Although SB 1186 was signed into law on September 19, 2012, most provisions did not take effect until after 1/1/13.
The stay provision of Section 9 of SB1186 of the statute takes effect immediately.
To obtain a stay, a defendant needs to show the following:
- a) The defendant employs fewer than 25 employees (DE-7 Form); and
- b) The defendant has an average gross receipt of less than $3.5 million per year for the previous three years, or for the existence of the business if less than three years (Federal or state tax documents).
Both documents under Paragraphs a) and b) will be sealed by the court and not accessible by the plaintiff.
Unlike an answer or a demurrer, an application for a stay does not require any court filing fee. The court will order a stay and order an “early evaluation conference” requiring all the parties to attend.
The defendant must complete the corrective work(s) within 30 days from the service of the summons and complaint on the defendant and obtain a compliance report from a Certified Access Specialist within 10 days of the stay order.