By: Charles L. Post
Governor Brown recently approved a significant – although many would stay still inadequate – overhaul of California law that governs the what, how and when of disability access suits under state law.
Business owners have long complained about suits based on disabled access laws. Many business owners feel the system is easily abused by “shake down” plaintiffs demanding settlements for technical noncompliance with disability access bars that do not actually impede access.
The new bill makes adjustments to earlier amendments to California Disabled Access law. These changes include:
- Alteration of the minimum damages scheme. In some instances the damages have been reduced from $4,000 to $1,000. The bill requires courts to consider a plaintiff’s duty to mitigate damages.
- Imposes attorney monitoring and reporting requirements – Attorneys filing these suits must report the suits to the state agencies.
- Requires that in some instances certain businesses receive notice of noncompliant conditions and receive opportunity to cure them.
- Enhances the system of inspections by Certified Access Specialists. Premises inspected in compliance with the statute enjoy some protections against disability access suits.
- As of July 1, 2013, requires that commercial property owners state in any lease or rental agreement if the property has undergone inspection by a Certified Access Specialist.
- Makes further adjustments to the Certified Access Specialist program including certification free limits, and outlines the duties of the Office of the State Architect and the California Commission on Disabled Access.
A complete copy of the bill is available at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_1151-1200/sb_1186_bill_20120919_chaptered.pdf.