Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Governor Signs Steinberg/Dutton Legislation Curbing Abuses of Disabled Access Law

 Well it looks like the rumors I have been hearing are incorrect. The Governor just signed SB1186 the ADA bill.  For all of you that agreed to sign our letter thank you. Please know we will be sending a letter to the Governor and Senator Steinberg a thank you letter.
If you have not responded and want to be on the thank you letter please let me know.
In cases like this my philosophy is it is better to be prepared and get out letters if you are not sure of outcome.
Hope you agree.
See below

Scott Hauge
Small Business California
2311 Taraval Street
San Francisco, CA  94116


From: Hedlund, Mark
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:27 PM
Subject: Governor Signs Steinberg/Dutton Legislation Curbing Abuses of Disabled Access Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                            Contact: Mark Hedlund 
September 19, 2012                                                                                                                                                                          916-651-4006

                         Governor Signs Legislation Reforming Disabled Access Law

(Sacramento) – A measure to protect California businesses from predatory legal action while improving access for members of the disabled community is now California law, as Governor Jerry Brown today signed Senate Bill 1186. This bipartisan effort co-authored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Bob Dutton (R-Inland Empire) becomes law immediately upon the Governor’s signature, as both houses of the Legislature passed the bill with overwhelming support as an urgency measure.

The bill brings reform to the state’s disability access law by prohibiting “demand for money” letters, where attorneys target businesses with alleged minor access violations and demand a quick monetary settlement in lieu of a more expensive lawsuit or fixing the problem to improve access. Among other provisions, the bill prevents attorneys from “stacking” multiple claims for the same alleged violation in order to increase monetary awards, while it also reduces statutory damages for businesses that fix unintentional violations within 30 to 60 days.

”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,” said Steinberg. “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.”

While the new law prohibits demand letters asking for money or offers to settle, an attorney with a claim for damages can still send a letter to a business pointing out the alleged violation and advise the owner and/or tenant they “may be civilly liable for actual and statutory damages for a violation of the construction-related accessibility requirement.”  Any complaint must also specify the alleged barrier with the date and manner in which it denied access to a person with a disability.

In addition, SB 1186 makes a distinction between intentional and unintentional violations. While a business or property owner would be eligible for reduced damages if the violation is unintentional and is fixed within the statutory time frame, the law preserves the full statutory damages liability for intentional violations.

The urgency measure passed the State Senate 34 – 3, and passed the State Assembly by a vote of 77 – 0.


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