State Senate acts to restrict cash demands over disabled access
The state Senate on Tuesday acted to address concerns by small businesses that they are being shaken down by attorneys who demand payments while threatening lawsuits over relatively minor disabled access violations.
Lawmakers approved a measure that prohibits attorneys and others from sending letters that demand money from businesses under the threat of litigation.
"We know unfortunately that there are some plaintiff's attorneys that paper small businesses and say to them, 'You either pay up or we are going to sue you,’ " said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who co-authored the measure with Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga).
SB 1186 would also require a "notice of violation" letter to be sent to a small business at least 30 days before someone can file a claim for damages.
"Frankly, we’re trying to get rid of the bad actors, trying to get rid of the frivolous lawsuits," said Dutton, who added that one business in his district faced a demand for money over a mirror that was a few inches out of compliance.
The measure was approved on a 36-0 vote, but it drew opposition from a few Democratic senators, who withheld their vote, as well as groups including Disability Rights California and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.
Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa)was among those who said too many disabled people do not have sufficient access to businesses, and businesses are resistant to reducing access requirements. "It’s just not impossible to comply," Evans said.
Steinberg said he was open to changing the bill to address concerns before it is acted on by the state Assembly in the next couple of months.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento