Amended in Assembly May 6, 2015

California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 1521


Introduced by Committee on Judiciary (Assembly Members Mark Stone (Chair), Alejo, Chau, Chiu, Cristina Garcia, Holden, and O'Donnell)

March 10, 2015


An act to amendbegin delete Sections 17, 581d, 582, and 1003 of the Code of Civil Procedure, relating to civil procedure.end deletebegin insert Section 55.3 of the Civil Code, relating to disability access.end insert

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 1521, as amended, Committee on Judiciary. begin deleteCivil procedure: electronic signatures.end deletebegin insert Disability access: construction-related accessibility claims.end insert

begin insert

Existing law provides that individuals with disabilities or medical conditions have the same right as the general public to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, medical facilities, public facilities, and other public places, and allows a person who is aggrieved or potentially aggrieved by a violation of specific provisions of law to bring an action to enjoin the violation. Existing law requires an attorney to provide a written advisory with each demand letter or complaint, as defined, sent to or served upon a defendant or potential defendant for any construction-related accessibility claim, as specified.

end insert
begin insert

This bill would require the above-described advisory to include additional information regarding the rights and obligations of business owners and commercial tenants, as specified. In addition to the written advisory, the bill would require an attorney to provide a defendant or potential defendant of a construction-related accessibility claim with an answer form developed by the Judicial Council, which would allow a defendant to respond in the event a complaint is filed, as specified. The bill would, on or before July 1, 2016, require the Judicial Council to update the advisory form and adopt the answer form, as specified.

end insert
begin delete

(1) Existing law provides definitions for particular terms used within the Code of Civil Procedure, including the terms “signature” or “subscription,” which are defined to include a mark of a person, when the person cannot write, with his or her name being written near it by a person who writes his or her own name as a witness, as specified.

end delete
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This bill would provide that the terms “signature” or “subscription” also include an electronic signature, defined as an electronic image or symbol of a person’s signature that is attached to, or logically associated with, a document and executed or adopted by the person with an intent to sign the document.

end delete
begin delete

(2) Existing law provides, in a dismissal of an action by a court, that the court is required to sign a written order and file the order in the action, which constitutes a judgment that is effective for all purposes. In all other cases, existing law provides that a judgment is required to be rendered on the merits.

end delete
begin delete

This bill would require all judgments to be signed by the court, and would provide that an electronic signature is as effective as an original signature.

end delete

The bill also would include technical changes to these provisions.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: begin deleteno end deletebegin insertyesend insert. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P2    1begin insert

begin insertSECTION 1.end insert  

end insert

begin insertSection 55.3 of the end insertbegin insertCivil Codeend insertbegin insert is amended to read:end insert

2

55.3.  

(a) For purposes of this section, the followingbegin delete shallend delete apply:

3(1) “Complaint” means a civil complaint that is filed or is to be
4filed with a court and is sent to or served upon a defendant on the
5basis of one or more construction-related accessibility claims, as
6defined in this section.

7(2) “Construction-related accessibility claim” means any claim
8of a violation of any construction-related accessibility standard,
9as defined by paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 55.52,
10with respect to a place of public accommodation.
11“Construction-related accessibility claim” does not include a claim
P3    1of interference with housing within the meaning of paragraph (2)
2of subdivision (b) of Section 54.1, or any claim of interference
3caused by something other than the construction-related
4accessibility condition of the property, including, but not limited
5to, the conduct of any person.

6(3) “Demand for money” means a prelitigation written document
7or oral statement that is provided or issued to a building owner or
8tenant, or the owner’s or tenant’s agent or employee, that does all
9of the following:

10(A) Alleges that the site is in violation of one or more
11construction-related accessibility standards, as defined in paragraph
12(6) of subdivision (a) of Section 55.52, or alleges one or more
13construction-related accessibility claims, as defined in paragraph
14(2).

15(B) Contains or makes a request or demand for money or an
16offer or agreement to accept money.

17(C) Is provided or issued whether or not the attorney intends to
18file a complaint, or eventually files a complaint, in state or federal
19court.

20(4) “Demand letter” means a prelitigation written document that
21is provided to a building owner or tenant, or the owner’s or tenant’s
22agent or employee, that alleges the site is in violation of one or
23more construction-related accessibility standards, as defined in
24paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 55.52, or alleges one
25or more construction-related accessibility claims, as defined in
26paragraph (2), and is provided whether or not the attorney intends
27to file a complaint, or eventually files a complaint, in state or
28federal court.

29(b) An attorney shall providebegin delete aend deletebegin insert the following items with each
30demand letter or complaint sent to or served upon a defendant or
31potential defendant alleging a construction-related accessibility
32claim:end insert
begin delete writtenend delete

33begin insert(1)end insertbegin insertend insertbegin insertA writtenend insert advisory on the form described inbegin delete subdivision (c),end delete
34begin insert subparagraph (B),end insert or, until that form is available, on a separate
35page or pages that are clearly distinguishable from the demand
36letter orbegin delete complaint, with each demand letter or complaint sent to
37or served upon a defendant or potential defendant.end delete
begin insert complaint.end insert The
38advisory shall not be required in subsequent communications
39following the initial demand letter or initial complaint unless a
P4    1new construction-related accessibility claim is asserted in the
2subsequent demand letter or amended complaint.begin delete Theend delete

3begin insert(A)end insertbegin insertend insertbegin insertTheend insert advisory shall state as follows:

45STATE LAW REQUIRES THAT YOU GET THIS
6IMPORTANT ADVISORY INFORMATION FOR BUILDING
7OWNERS AND TENANTS
8

9This information is available in English, Spanish, Chinese,
10Vietnamese, and Korean through the Judicial Council of California.
11Persons with visual impairments can get assistance in viewing this
12form through the Judicial Council Internet Web site at
13www.courts.ca.gov.

14California law requires that you receive this information because
15the demand letter or court complaint you received with this
16document claims that your building or property does not comply
17with one or more existing construction-related accessibility laws
18or regulations protecting the civil rights of persons with disabilities
19to access public places.

20YOU HAVE IMPORTANT LEGAL OBLIGATIONS.
21Compliance with disability access laws is a serious and significant
22responsibility that applies to all California building owners and
23tenants with buildings open for business to the public. You may
24obtain information about your legal obligations and how to comply
25with disability access laws through the Division of the State
26 Architect at www.dgs.ca.gov. Information is also available from
27the California Commission on Disability Access at
28www.ccda.ca.gov/guide.htm.

29YOU HAVE IMPORTANT LEGAL RIGHTS. The allegations
30made in the accompanying demand letter or court complaint do
31not mean that you are required to pay any money unless and until
32a court finds you liable. Moreover, RECEIPT OF A DEMAND
33LETTER OR COURT COMPLAINT AND THIS ADVISORY
34DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN YOU WILL BE FOUND
35LIABLE FOR ANYTHING. You will have the right if you are
36later sued to fully present your explanation why you believe you
37have not in fact violated disability access laws or have corrected
38the violation or violations giving rise to the claim.

39You have the right to seek assistance or advice about this demand
40letter or court complaint from any person of your choice. If you
P5    1have insurance, you may also wish to contact your insurance
2provider. Your best interest may be served by seeking legal advice
3or representation from an attorney, but you may also represent
4yourself and file the necessary court papers to protect your interests
5if you are served with a court complaint. If you have hired an
6attorney to represent you, you should immediately notify your
7attorney.

8If a court complaint has been served on you, you will get a
9separate advisory notice with the complaint advising you of special
10options and procedures available to you under certain conditions.

11ADDITIONAL THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:begin delete Ifend delete

12begin insert ATTORNEY MISCONDUCT. Except for limited circumstances,
13state law generally requires that a prelitigation demand letter from
14 an attorneyend insert
begin delete the document accompanying this notice is a demand
15letter from a lawyer and not a formal court complaint, the lawyer
16is generally required by law to also provide a copy of it to the State
17Bar of California, until January 1, 2016, in order that the State Bar
18may determine whether the demand letter complies with legal
19requirements, INCLUDING THAT THE DEMAND LETTERend delete

20 MAY NOT MAKE A REQUEST OR DEMAND FOR MONEY
21OR AN OFFER OR AGREEMENT TO ACCEPT MONEY.begin delete Anyend delete
22begin insert Moreover, aend insert demand letterbegin delete or court complaint must list the lawyer’s
23State Bar license number on the document.end delete
begin insert end insertbegin insertfrom an attorney MUST
24INCLUDE THE ATTORNEY’S STATE BAR LICENSE NUMBER.end insert

begin insert

25If you believe the attorney who provided you with this notice
26and prelitigation demand letter is not complying with state law,
27you may send a copy of the demand letter you received from the
28attorney to the State Bar of California by facsimile transmission
29to 1-415-538-2171, or by mail to the State Bar of California, 180
30Howard Street, San Francisco, CA, 94105, Attention: Professional
31Competence.

end insert
begin delete

32You are encouraged, but are not required, to provide the State
33Bar with a copy of the demand letter so the State Bar is aware that
34you received this demand letter and may determine whether it is
35in compliance with specified legal requirements. A copy of the
36letter can be sent to the State Bar by facsimile transmission to
371-415-538-2171, or by mail to the State Bar of California, 180
38Howard Street, San Francisco, CA, 94105, Attention: Professional
39Competence.

end delete
begin insert

P6    1REDUCING YOUR DAMAGES. If you are a small business
2owner and correct all of the construction-related violations that
3are the basis of the complaint against you within 30 days of being
4served with the complaint, you may qualify for reduced damages
5if the matter results in a court judgment. If you believe you qualify
6for reduced damages, you may wish to consult an attorney to obtain
7legal advice, or contact the California Commission on Disability
8Access for additional information about the rights and obligations
9of business owners.

end insert
begin insert

10COMMERCIAL TENANT. If you are a commercial tenant, you
11may not be responsible for ensuring that some or all portions of
12the premises you lease for your business, including common areas
13such as parking lots, are accessible to the public because those
14areas may be the responsibility of your landlord. You may want
15to refer to your lease agreement and consult with an attorney or
16contact your landlord, to determine if your landlord is responsible
17under the terms of your lease for maintaining and improving some
18or all of the areas you lease to operate your business.

end insert

begin delete

20(c)

end delete

21begin insert(B)end insert On or before July 1,begin delete 2013,end deletebegin insert 2016,end insert the Judicial Council shall
22update thebegin insert advisoryend insert form that may be used bybegin delete attorneysend deletebegin insert an attorneyend insert
23 to comply with the requirements ofbegin delete subdivision (b).end deletebegin insert subparagraph
24(A).end insert
Thebegin insert advisoryend insert form shall be in substantially the same format
25and include all of the text set forth inbegin delete subdivision (b).end deletebegin insert subparagraph
26(A).end insert
Thebegin insert advisoryend insert form shall be available in English, Spanish,
27Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean, and shall include a statement
28that thebegin insert advisoryend insert form is available in additional languages, and the
29Judicial Council Internet Web site address where the different
30versions of thebegin insert advisoryend insert formbegin delete may beend deletebegin insert areend insert located. Thebegin insert advisoryend insert
31 form shall include Internet Web site information for the Division
32of the State Architect and the California Commission on Disability
33Access.

begin insert

34(2) An answer form developed by the Judicial Council, which
35allows a defendant to respond to the complaint in the event a
36complaint is filed.

end insert
begin insert

37(A) The answer form shall be written in plain language and
38allow the defendant to state any relevant information affecting the
39defendant’s liability or damages including, but not limited to, the
40following:

end insert
begin insert

P7    1(i) Specific denials of the allegations in the complaint, including
2whether the plaintiff has demonstrated that he or she was denied
3full and equal access to the place of public accommodation on a
4particular occasion pursuant to Section 55.56.

end insert
begin insert

5(ii) Potential affirmative defenses available to the defendant,
6including:

end insert
begin insert

7(I) An assertion that the defendant qualifies for reduced damages
8pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (f) of Section 55.56,
9and facts supporting that assertion.

end insert
begin insert

10(II) An assertion that the defendant’s landlord is responsible
11for ensuring that some or all of the property leased by the
12defendant, including the areas at issue in the complaint, are
13accessible to the public. The defendant shall provide facts
14supporting that assertion, and the name and contact information
15of the defendant’s landlord.

end insert
begin insert

16(III) Any other affirmative defense the defendant wishes to
17assert.

end insert
begin insert

18(iii) Whether the defendant made a written settlement offer that
19was rejected by the plaintiff, or met with the plaintiff in a good
20faith effort to negotiate a settlement of the complaint.

end insert
begin insert

21(iv) Any other information that the defendant believes is relevant
22to his or her potential liability or damages.

end insert
begin insert

23(B) The answer form shall provide instructions to a defendant
24who wishes to file the form as an answer to the complaint. The
25form shall also notify the defendant that he or she may use the
26completed form as an informal response to a demand letter or for
27settlement discussion purposes.

end insert
begin insert

28(C) On or before July 1, 2016, the Judicial Council shall adopt
29the answer form that may be used by an attorney to comply with
30the requirements of this paragraph, and shall post the answer form
31on the Judicial Council Internet web site.

end insert
begin delete

32(d)

end delete

33begin insert(c)end insert Subdivision (b)begin delete shall applyend deletebegin insert appliesend insert only to a demand letter
34or complaint made by an attorney.begin delete Nothing in thisend deletebegin insert Thisend insert sectionbegin delete is
35intended toend delete
begin insert does notend insert affect the right to file a civil complaint under
36any other law or regulation protecting the physical access rights
37of persons with disabilities. Additionally,begin delete nothing inend delete this section
38begin delete requiresend deletebegin insert does not requireend insert a party to provide or send a demand letter
39to another party before proceeding against that party with a civil
40complaint.

begin delete

P8    1(e)

end delete

2begin insert(d)end insert This sectionbegin delete shallend deletebegin insert doesend insert not apply tobegin delete anyend deletebegin insert anend insert action brought
3by the Attorney General, or by any district attorney, city attorney,
4or county counsel.

begin delete
5

SECTION 1.  

Section 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure is
6amended to read:

7

17.  

(a) Words used in this code in the present tense include
8the future as well as the present. Words used in the masculine
9gender include the feminine and neuter. The singular number
10includes the plural and the plural number includes the singular.

11(b) As used in this code, the following words have the following
12meanings, unless otherwise apparent from the context:

13(1) “Affinity,” when applied to the marriage relation, signifies
14the connection existing in consequence of marriage between each
15of the married persons and the blood relatives of the other.

16(2) “County” includes “city and county.”

17(3) “Month” means a calendar month, unless otherwise
18expressed.

19(4) “Oath” includes an affirmation or declaration.

20(A) “Depose” includes any written statement made under oath
21or affirmation.

22(B) “Testify” includes any mode of oral statement made under
23oath.

24(5) “Person” includes a corporation as well as a natural person.

25(6) “Process” means a writ or summons issued in the course of
26a judicial proceeding.

27(7) “Property” includes both personal and real property.

28(A) “Personal property” includes money, goods, chattels, things
29in action, and evidences of debt.

30(B) “Real property” is coextensive with lands, tenements, and
31hereditaments.

32(8) “Section” means to a section of this code, unless some other
33code or statute is expressly mentioned.

34(9) “Sheriff” includes marshal.

35(10) “Signature” is synonymous with “subscription,” and
36includes both of the following:

37(A) An electronic signature, which is an electronic image or
38symbol of a person’s signature that is attached to, or logically
39associated with, a document and executed or adopted by the person
40with an intent to sign the document.

P9    1(B) A mark of a person’s name, if the person cannot write, with
2his or her name being written near it by a person who writes his
3or her own name as a witness. In order that a mark may be
4acknowledged or serve as the signature to any sworn statement, it
5shall be witnessed by two persons who shall subscribe their own
6names as witnesses thereto.

7(11) “State,” when applied to the different parts of the United
8States, includes the District of Columbia and the territories of the
9United States.

10(12) “United States” may include the District of Columbia and
11the territories of the United States.

12(13) “Will” includes codicil.

13(14) “Writ” means an order or precept in writing, issued in the
14name of the people or of a court or judicial officer.

15(15) “Writing” includes printing and typewriting.

16

SEC. 2.  

Section 581d of the Code of Civil Procedure is
17amended to read:

18

581d.  

(a) A written dismissal of an action shall be entered in
19the clerk’s register and is effective for all purposes when so entered.

20(b) A dismissal ordered by the court shall be in the form of a
21written order signed by the court and filed in the action, and, once
22filed, shall constitute a judgment, which is effective for all
23purposes. An electronic signature, as defined in subdivision (b) of
24Section 17, of the court shall be effective as an original signature.
25The clerk shall note judgments in the register of actions in the case.

26

SEC. 3.  

Section 582 of the Code of Civil Procedure is amended
27to read:

28

582.  

In all other cases, a judgment shall be rendered on the
29merits. The judgment shall be signed by the court. An electronic
30signature, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 17, of the court
31shall be effective as an original signature.

32

SEC. 4.  

Section 1003 of the Code of Civil Procedure is
33amended to read:

34

1003.  

(a) Every direction of a court or judge, made or entered
35in writing, and not included in a judgment, is denominated an
36order. An application for an order is a motion.

37(b) If any provision of this code requires the court to sign an
38order, an electronic signature, as defined in subdivision (b) of
P10   1Section 17, of the court shall be as effective as an original
2signature.

end delete


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