Amended in Assembly May 21, 2015

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,begin delete Holden, and O'Donnellend deletebegin insert and end insertbegin insertHoldenend insert)

March 10, 2015

An act to amend Section 55.3 of the Civil Code, relating to disability access.


AB 1521, as amended, Committee on Judiciary. Disability access: construction-related accessibility claims.

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.

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.

The bill also would include technical changes to these provisions.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.

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

P2    1


Section 55.3 of the Civil Code is amended to



(a) For purposes of this section, the following apply:

4(1) “Complaint” means a civil complaint that is filed or is to be
5filed with a court and is sent to or served upon a defendant on the
6basis of one or more construction-related accessibility claims, as
7defined in this section.

8(2) “Construction-related accessibility claim” means any claim
9of a violation of any construction-related accessibility standard,
10as defined by paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 55.52,
11with respect to a place of public accommodation.
12“Construction-related accessibility claim” does not include a claim
13of interference with housing within the meaning of paragraph (2)
14of subdivision (b) of Section 54.1, or any claim of interference
15caused by something other than the construction-related
16accessibility condition of the property, including, but not limited
17to, the conduct of any person.

18(3) “Demand for money” means a prelitigation written document
19or oral statement that is provided or issued to a building owner or
20tenant, or the owner’s or tenant’s agent or employee, that does all
21of the following:

22(A) Alleges that the site is in violation of one or more
23construction-related accessibility standards, as defined in paragraph
24(6) of subdivision (a) of Section 55.52, or alleges one or more
25construction-related accessibility claims, as defined in paragraph

27(B) Contains or makes a request or demand for money or an
28offer or agreement to accept money.

P3    1(C) Is provided or issued whether or not the attorney intends to
2file a complaint, or eventually files a complaint, in state or federal

4(4) “Demand letter” means a prelitigation written document that
5is provided to a building owner or tenant, or the owner’s or tenant’s
6agent or employee, that alleges the site is in violation of one or
7more construction-related accessibility standards, as defined in
8paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 55.52, or alleges one
9or more construction-related accessibility claims, as defined in
10paragraph (2), and is provided whether or not the attorney intends
11to file a complaint, or eventually files a complaint, in state or
12federal court.

13(b) An attorney shall provide the following items with each
14demand letter or complaint sent to or served upon a defendant or
15potential defendant alleging a construction-related accessibility

17(1) A written advisory on the form described in subparagraph
18(B), or, until that form is available, on a separate page or pages
19that are clearly distinguishable from the demand letter or complaint.
20The advisory shall not be required in subsequent communications
21following the initial demand letter or initial complaint unless a
22new construction-related accessibility claim is asserted in the
23subsequent demand letter or amended complaint.

24(A) The advisory shall state as follows:


30This information is available in English, Spanish, Chinese,
31Vietnamese, and Korean through the Judicial Council of California.
32Persons with visual impairments can get assistance in viewing this
33form through the Judicial Council Internet Web site at

35California law requires that you receive this information because
36the demand letter or court complaint you received with this
37document claims that your building or property does not comply
38with one or more existing construction-related accessibility laws
39or regulations protecting the civil rights of persons with disabilities
40to access public places.

2Compliance with disability access laws is a serious and significant
3responsibility that applies to all California building owners and
4tenants with buildings open for business to the public. You may
5obtain information about your legal obligations and how to comply
6with disability access laws through the Division of the State
7 Architect at Information is also available from
8the California Commission on Disability Access at

11made in the accompanying demand letter or court complaint do
12not mean that you are required to pay any money unless and until
13a court finds you liable. Moreover, RECEIPT OF A DEMAND
16LIABLE FOR ANYTHING. You will have the right if you are
17later sued to fully present your explanation why you believe you
18have not in fact violated disability access laws or have corrected
19the violation or violations giving rise to the claim.

20You have the right to seek assistance or advice about this demand
21letter or court complaint from any person of your choice. If you
22have insurance, you may also wish to contact your insurance
23provider. Your best interest may be served by seeking legal advice
24or representation from an attorney, but you may also represent
25yourself and file the necessary court papers to protect your interests
26if you are served with a court complaint. If you have hired an
27attorney to represent you, you should immediately notify your

29If a court complaint has been served on you, you will get a
30separate advisory notice with the complaint advising you of special
31options and procedures available to you under certain conditions.


33 ATTORNEY MISCONDUCT. Except for limited circumstances,
34state law generally requires that a prelitigation demand letter from
37MONEY. Moreover, a demand letter from an attorney MUST

P5    1If you believe the attorney who provided you with this notice
2and prelitigation demand letter is not complying with state law,
3you may send a copy of the demand letter you received from the
4attorney to the State Bar of California by facsimile transmission
5to 1-415-538-2171, or by mail to the State Bar of California, 180
6Howard Street, San Francisco, CA, 94105, Attention: Professional

8REDUCING YOUR DAMAGES. If you are a small business
9owner and correct all of the construction-related violations that
10are the basis of the complaint against you within 30 days of being
11served with the complaint, you may qualify for reduced damages
12if the matter results in a court judgment. If you believe you qualify
13for reduced damages, you may wish to consult an attorney to obtain
14legal advice, or contact the California Commission on Disability
15Access for additional information about the rights and obligations
16of business owners.

17COMMERCIAL TENANT. If you are a commercial tenant, you
18may not be responsible for ensuring that some or all portions of
19the premises you lease for your business, including common areas
20such as parking lots, are accessible to the public because those
21areas may be the responsibility of your landlord. You may want
22to refer to your lease agreement and consult with an attorney or
23contact your landlord, to determine if your landlord is responsible
24under the terms of your lease for maintaining and improving some
25or all of the areas you lease to operate your business.

27(B) On or before July 1, 2016, the Judicial Council shall update
28the advisory form that may be used by an attorney to comply with
29the requirements of subparagraph (A). The advisory form shall be
30in substantially the same format and include all of the text set forth
31in subparagraph (A). The advisory form shall be available in
32English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean, and shall
33include a statement that the advisory form is available in additional
34languages, and the Judicial Council Internet Web site address
35where the different versions of the advisory form are located. The
36advisory form shall include Internet Web site information for the
37Division of the State Architect and the California Commission on
38Disability Access.

P6    1(2) An answer form developed by the Judicial Council, which
2allows a defendant to respond to the complaint in the event a
3complaint is filed.

4(A) The answer form shall be written in plain language and
5allow the defendant to state any relevant information affecting the
6defendant’s liability or damages including, but not limited to, the

8(i) Specific denials of the allegations in the complaint, including
9whether the plaintiff has demonstrated that he or she was denied
10full and equal access to the place of public accommodation on a
11particular occasion pursuant to Section 55.56.

12(ii) Potential affirmative defenses available to the defendant,

14(I) An assertion that the defendant qualifies for reduced damages
15pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (f) of Section 55.56,
16and facts supporting that assertion.

17(II) An assertion that the defendant’s landlord is responsible for
18ensuring that some or all of the property leased by the defendant,
19including the areas at issue in the complaint, are accessible to the
20public. The defendant shall provide facts supporting that assertion,
21and the name and contact information of the defendant’s landlord.

22(III) Any other affirmative defense the defendant wishes to

24(iii) Whether the defendant made a written settlement offer that
25was rejected by the plaintiff, or met with the plaintiff in a good
26faith effort to negotiate a settlement of the complaint.

27(iv) Any other information that the defendant believes is relevant
28to his or her potential liability or damages.

29(B) The answer form shall provide instructions to a defendant
30who wishes to file the form as an answer to the complaint. The
31form shall also notify the defendant that he or she may use the
32completed form as an informal response to a demand letter or for
33settlement discussion purposes.

34(C) On or before July 1, 2016, the Judicial Council shall adopt
35the answer form that may be used by an attorney to comply with
36the requirements of this paragraph, and shall post the answer form
37on the Judicial Council Internet web site.

38(c) Subdivision (b) applies only to a demand letter or complaint
39made by an attorney. This section does not affect the right to file
40a civil complaint under any other law or regulation protecting the
P7    1physical access rights of persons with disabilities. Additionally,
2this section does not require a party to provide or send a demand
3letter to another party before proceeding against that party with a
4civil complaint.

5(d) This section does not apply to an action brought by the
6Attorneybegin delete General, or byend deletebegin insert General orend insert any district attorney, city
7attorney, or county counsel.