California Legislature Passes State Disability Lawsuit Abuse Act

The California legislature recently passed a new amendment to its civil rights law (the Unruh Civil Rights Act) aimed at curbing abuses related to disability discrimination lawsuits against public accommodations (i.e. businesses that offer goods and services to the public). This bill, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) received strong bipartisan support and now awaits a decision from Governor Jerry Brown.

Recent figures show that California is home to approximately 40% of all claims against businesses alleging a failure to satisfy accessibility requirements for the disabled. As in most states, plaintiffs will file such lawsuits under both the federal ADA and a state civil rights statute that provides state remedies for disability discrimination. Unlike the ADA, many of these state civil rights laws (e.g. the Unruh Act) allow for the recovery of damages in addition to injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.

If this legislation is signed into law it will implement important requirements and limitations for filing disability discrimination suits against public accommodations in California. This includes a ban on what is often referred to as “demand for money” letters. This is where a plaintiff’s attorney files a lawsuit and then (sometimes simultaneously) makes a demand for damages and attorney’s fees in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. Rather, a plaintiff (or plaintiff’s attorney) must provide a business with a letter setting forth a description of any alleged construction-related accessibility violations at least 30 days before filing a lawsuit. This amendment also reduces the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover under California law for accessibility violations where a business corrects any violations or deficiencies within 30 to 60 days after receiving a complaint.

In addition to putting in place measures to curb predatory lawsuits, this legislation requires the California Commission on Disability Access to develop and promulgate educational materials to businesses describing their obligations under federal and state law. This mandate would be funded by a $1 dollar increase to the state’s business license fee.

Although this law (if ultimately signed by Governor Brown) will only impact directly California businesses (or businesses that operate facilities in California) it could be an important stepping stone to similar legislative action at the federal level. For example, California Representative Dan Lungren (R-CA) has introduced legislation in Congress aimed at curbing predatory litigation tactics sometimes employed under the federal ADA. The debate surrounding these laws demonstrates the often difficult task of balancing the goals of the ADA and state disability discrimination laws with their potential (and in some cases practice) of creating a vehicle for frivolous or predatory litigation. We will continue to monitor this significant legislation, as well as similar legislation in other states and at the federal level.

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4 Responses to California Legislature Passes State Disability Lawsuit Abuse Act

  1. California architect says:

    This bill has since passed, and I’m trying to understand the ramifications for clients. Someone told me plaintiffs can bypass these protections by simply filing the law suit in federal court instead of in the California court system. Can you give me some clarity on this?

  2. Zoltanwelvart says:

    In eureka ca .methamphetamin provides money to some,people in businesses that are helped by stimulation.blindly and instinctually.boy burglar,retarded girl selling meth in mcdonalds parking lot.everywhere meth.stand against,get knocked down.as example.here in eureka ,after years of adapting.ive been here 3years,from Mexico,to see Ssi recipients robbed and beaten,by cops and their friends.ask Andy mills chief of poli about his assets in old town around mission.i came out of town taken by Miguel Trevino,a revolutionary hero?with 7 millions on his head.took my entire region where I’ve been a long time studying a 2meter deposit of plankton,mined,prehistorically.trevino appears CIA asset.mossad trained and guatamalans sf,and us military,retired,I’ve noticed,,except I’ve seen no Jews.scion of ex chief of poli here kills,threatens,and tries to kill my,many times.he is asset of poli.a town that consistently treats people a way for looking a way.20million a day or month distributed in bribes.i lived in a housing tract built on our speed dollars..if this slimy upperclass is sued by handicapped,poli improved,the same doesn’t need to happen here.we suffer fake army roadblocks,spanking of mayors,kidnap express intimidation of witness.ive been complaining about Eurekas poli.through gossip,in a big isolated,town of illiterates.eureka became attractive.my civil rights we’re,are,violated here.I have massive plankton deposit,which produces nutritional independence,as shown by Olmec.the flu epidemics,are caused by nutritional dependence.the majik of petroleum farming.eat granulite,useless authority.

  3. Zoltanwelvart says:

    In eureka ca .methamphetamin provides money to some,people in businesses that are helped by stimulation.blindly and instinctually.boy burglar,retarded girl selling meth in mcdonalds parking lot.everywhere meth.stand against,get knocked down.as example.here in eureka ,after years of adapting.ive been here 3years,from Mexico,to see Ssi recipients robbed and beaten,by cops and their friends.ask Andy mills chief of poli about his assets in old town around mission.i came out of town taken by Miguel Trevino,a revolutionary hero?with 7 millions on his head.took my entire region where I’ve been a long time studying a 2meter deposit of plankton,mined,prehistorically.trevino appears CIA asset.mossad trained and guatamalans sf,and us military,retired,I’ve noticed,,except I’ve seen no Jews.scion of ex chief of poli here kills,threatens,and tries to kill my,many times.he is asset of poli.a town that consistently treats people a way for looking a way.20million a day or month distributed in bribes.i lived in a housing tract built on our speed dollars..if this slimy upperclass is sued by handicapped,poli improved,the same doesn’t need to happen here.we suffer fake army roadblocks,spanking of mayors,kidnap express intimidation of witness.ive been complaining about Eurekas poli.through gossip,in a big isolated,town of illiterates.eureka became attractive.my civil rights we’re,are,violated here.I have massive plankton deposit,which produces nutritional independence,as shown by Olmec.the flu epidemics,are caused by nutritional dependence.the majik of petroleum farming.eat granulite,useless authority.

  4. Zoltanwelvart says:

    In eureka ca .methamphetamin provides money to some,people in businesses that are helped by stimulation.blindly and instinctually.boy burglar,retarded girl selling meth in mcdonalds parking lot.everywhere meth.stand against,get knocked down.as example.here in eureka ,after years of adapting.ive been here 3years,from Mexico,to see Ssi recipients robbed and beaten,by cops and their friends.ask Andy mills chief of poli about his assets in old town around mission.i came out of town taken by Miguel Trevino,a revolutionary hero?with 7 millions on his head.took my entire region where I’ve been a long time studying a 2meter deposit of plankton,mined,prehistorically.trevino appears CIA asset.mossad trained and guatamalans sf,and us military,retired,I’ve noticed,,except I’ve seen no Jews.scion of ex chief of poli here kills,threatens,and tries to kill my,many times.he is asset of poli.a town that consistently treats people a way for looking a way.20million a day or month distributed in bribes.i lived in a housing tract built on our speed dollars..if this slimy upperclass is sued by handicapped,poli improved,the same doesn’t need to happen here.we suffer fake army roadblocks,spanking of mayors,kidnap express intimidation of witness.ive been complaining about Eurekas poli.through gossip,in a big isolated,town of illiterates.eureka became attractive.my civil rights we’re,are,violated here.I have massive plankton deposit,which produces nutritional independence,as shown by Olmec.the flu epidemics,are caused by nutritional dependence.the majik of petroleum farming.eat granulite,useless authority.

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