BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1521


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          Date of Hearing:  May 12, 2015


                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY


                                  Mark Stone, Chair


          AB 1521  
          (Committee on Judiciary) - As Amended May 6, 2015


          SUBJECT:  DISABILITY ACCESS: CONSTRUCTION-RELATED ACCESSIBILITY  
          CLAIMS 


          KEY ISSUE:  SHOULD A BUSINESS OWNER WHO IS SUED FOR VIOLATING A  
          CONSTRUCTION-RELATED ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD RECEIVE MORE  
          INFORMATION AND RESOURCES ABOUT OPTIONS FOR RESPONDING TO THE  
          LAWSUIT IN ORDER TO HELP REDUCE THE BUSINESS OWNER'S POTENTIAL  
          FINANCIAL LIABILITY FOR SUCH A VIOLATION AND TO ANSWER THE  
          LAWSUIT, IF NECESSARY, WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE OF AN ATTORNEY?


                                      SYNOPSIS


          Like other civil rights statutes that prohibit discrimination in  
          businesses open to the public, the statutory scheme for  
          enforcement of disability access laws rests on voluntary  
          compliance and individual legal actions.  There is no  
          governmental entity charged with administrative or judicial  
          enforcement of these obligations.  Under the federal Americans  
          with Disabilities Act (ADA), a business that constitutes a place  
          of public accommodation (e.g., many places of lodging,  
          entertainment, recreation, restaurants, bars, theaters, stores,  
          health clubs, etc.) is prohibited from discriminating on the  
          basis of disability if its operations affect interstate  








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          commerce.  Public accommodations in California are required to  
          comply with not only the ADA, but also with the state's Unruh  
          Act, which incorporates the ADA into its provisions and makes a  
          violation of the ADA punishable as a violation of Unruh.  All  
          violations of Unruh are subject to statutory damages of at least  
          four thousand dollars per violation, except in some cases where  
          lower damages (a minimum of one thousand or two thousand  
          dollars, depending on the circumstances of the case) apply.  




          Current law requires an attorney, when serving a demand letter  
          or a complaint that alleges a construction-related accessibility  
          claim or noncompliance, to provide the defendant with a written  
          notice with each demand letter or complaint.  The notice  
          includes information about the defendant's rights and  
          obligations, including the right of a qualified defendant to  
          request a stay and an early evaluation conference regarding the  
          allegations in the complaint, but does not include information  
          about how the defendant may be able to minimize his or her  
          financial exposure for an ADA/Unruh Act violation.  Also, many  
          small business owners and unsophisticated defendants may want to  
          contest the allegations in the complaint, but may not have the  
          resources to hire an attorney or the tools or information to  
          respond to the complaint without hiring an attorney.  This  
          non-controversial bill will update the mandatory notice provided  
          to defendants to provide more helpful information to the  
          defendant.  It also requires the Judicial Council to develop a  
          new form allowing a defendant to answer a complaint alleging the  
          violation of a construction-related accessibility standard.   
          Assuming this bill passes this Committee, it will be referred to  
          the Assembly Appropriations Committee.    


          SUMMARY:  Provides additional information and legal resources to  
          small business owners who may not realize how to minimize their  
          liability for ADA violations or respond to a lawsuit filed  
          against them.  Specifically, this bill:  








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          1)Revises the notice of rights and responsibilities that is  
            required by current law to be provided to a defendant  
            contemporaneously with service of a complaint or demand letter  
            to advise the defendant that "If you are found to be liable by  
            a court, you may be able to reduce the amount of money the  
            court orders you to pay in damages.  If you are a small  
            business owner and correct all of the construction-related  
            violations that are the basis of the complaint against you  
            within 30 days of being served with the complaint, you may  
            qualify for reduced damages.  If you believe you qualify for  
            reduced damages, you may wish to consult an attorney to obtain  
            legal advice, or contact the California Commission on  
            Disability Access (CCDA) for additional information about the  
            rights and obligations of business owners" and requires the  
            Judicial Council to revise the notice by July 1, 2016.


          2)Revises the notice of rights and responsibilities that is  
            required by current law to be provided to a defendant  
            contemporaneously with service of a complaint or demand letter  
            to advise the defendant that "If you are a commercial tenant,  
            you may not be responsible for ensuring that some or all  
            portions of the premises you lease for your business  
            (including common areas, such as parking lots), are accessible  
            to the public because those areas may be the responsibility of  
            your landlord.  You may want to refer to your lease agreement,  
            or consult with your landlord or an attorney, to determine if  
            your landlord is responsible under the terms of your lease for  
            maintaining and improving some or all of the areas you lease  
            to operate your business" and requires the Judicial Council to  
            revise the notice by July 1, 2016.  


          3)Requires the Judicial Council, by July 1, 2016, to develop a  
            form to answer the complaint which, among other things, is  
            required to satisfy the following requirements:









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             a)   Be written in plain language; 
             b)   Allow the defendant to state any relevant information  
               affecting the defendant's liability or damages;


             c)   Allow the defendant to make specific denials of the  
               allegations in the complaint, including whether the  
               plaintiff has demonstrated that he or she was denied full  
               and equal access to the place of public accommodation on a  
               particular occasion pursuant to Section 55.56;


             d)   Allow the defendant to state potential affirmative  
               defenses.


          4)Requires a plaintiff's attorney to provide a defendant with a  
            copy of the answer form created by the Judicial Council when  
            serving the defendant with a complaint or demand letter (and  
            the notice of rights and responsibilities, as required by  
            existing law).


          EXISTING LAW:


          1)Pursuant to federal law, under the Americans with Disabilities  
            Act (ADA), provides that no individual shall be discriminated  
            against on the basis of disability in the full and equal  
            enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges,  
            advantages, or accommodations of any place of public  
            accommodation by any person who owns, leases, or leases to, or  
            operates a place of public accommodation.  (42 U.S.C. 12182.)


          2)Pursuant to the state Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh), provides  
            that all persons, regardless of sex, race, color, religion,  
            ancestry, national origin, disability or medical condition,  








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            are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages,  
            facilities, privileges, or services in all business  
            establishments of every kind whatsoever.  A violation of the  
            ADA also constitutes a violation of Unruh.  (Civil Code  
            Section 51.  All further statutory references are to the  
            California Civil Code, unless otherwise indicated.)  


          3)Provides that a violation of Unruh subjects a person to actual  
            damages incurred by an injured party, treble actual damages  
            but not less than $4,000, and any attorney's fees as the court  
            may determine to be proper.  (Section 51 et seq.) 


          4)Provides that a violation of Unruh subjects a person to  
            injunctive and actual damages - plus treble actual damages but  
            not less than $1,000, and attorney's fees as the court deems  
            proper.  (Section 54.3.)


          5)Provides for a California Commission on Disability Access (the  
            Commission), an independent state agency composed of 19  
            members, with responsibility for monitoring disability access  
            compliance in California and authority to recommend necessary  
            changes to the Legislature in order to facilitate  
            implementation of state and federal laws on disability access.  
             (Government Code Section 8299 et seq.)


          6)Requires an attorney, when serving a demand letter or a  
            complaint on a defendant alleging a construction-related  
            accessibility claim or noncompliance, to provide a written  
            advisory with each demand letter or complaint, as defined.   
            The written advisory shall include information about the  
            defendant's rights and obligations, including the right of a  
            qualified defendant to request a stay and an early evaluation  
            conference regarding the allegations in the complaint.  The  
            written advisory is only required from any attorney, and not  
            from a pro per plaintiff.  (Section 55.3.)








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          7)Requires an attorney alleging the construction-related  
            accessibility claim or noncompliance to state facts sufficient  
            to allow the defendant to identify the basis for the claim.   
            (Section 55.31.)


          8)Provides that upon being served with a complaint asserting a  
            construction-related accessibility claim, a defendant may move  
            for a court stay and early evaluation conference if the  
            defendant is any of the following: (A)  Until January 1, 2018,  
            a defendant whose site had new construction or improvement  
            between January 1, 2008, and January 1, 2016 and was approved  
            pursuant to the local building permit and inspection process;  
            (B) a defendant whose site had new construction or improvement  
            that was approved by a local public building department  
            inspector who is a certified access specialist (CASp); or (C)  
            a defendant who is a small business.  The stay to the  
            construction-related accessibility claim, as provided, may be  
            provided for 90-days unless the plaintiff has obtained  
            temporary injunctive relief.  (Section 55.54.)  


          9)Authorizes a defendant who does not qualify for an early  
            evaluation conference (EEC) pursuant to these provisions, or  
            who forgoes those provisions, to request a mandatory  
            evaluation conference, as specified, and authorizes a  
            plaintiff to make that request if the defendant does not make  
            that request.  (Section 55.54.)


          10)Specifies that a court shall lift the stay when the defendant  
            has failed to file and serve the CASp inspection report when  
            required and also did not produce the report at the EEC,  
            unless good cause for the failure is shown.  (Section 55.54.)


          11)Specifies that a court may lift the stay at the conclusion of  








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            the EEC upon a showing of good cause by the plaintiff.   
            (Section 55.54.)


          12)Specifies the court's authority to schedule additional  
            conferences or to extend the stay for no more than an  
            additional 90 days, upon a showing of good cause.  (Section  
            55.54.)


          13)Provides that the stay and early evaluation conference shall  
            not be deemed to make any inspection report or opinion of a  
            CASp binding on the court or to abrogate the court's authority  
            to make appropriate findings of fact and law.  (Section  
            55.54.)


          14)Provides that the stay and early evaluation conference shall  
            not be construed to invalidate or limit any California  
            construction-related accessibility standard that provides  
            greater or equal protection for the rights of persons with  
            disabilities than is afforded by the ADA and the federal  
            regulations adopted pursuant to that act.  (Section 55.54.)


          15)Provides that notwithstanding the requirement that offers of  
            compromise are privileged and protected under Evidence Code  
            Section 1152, the court may consider, along with other  
            relevant information, settlement offers made and rejected by  
            the parties, in determining an award of reasonable attorney's  
            fees and recoverable costs in any construction-related  
            accessibility claim.  (Section 55.55.)


          16)Provides that statutory damages may be recovered in a  
            construction-related accessibility claim only if a violation  
            or violations of one or more construction-related  
            accessibility standards denied the plaintiff full and equal  
            access to the place of public accommodation on a particular  








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            occasion.  Existing law specifies that a plaintiff is denied  
            full and equal access only if he or she personally encountered  
            the violation on a particular occasion or was deterred from  
            accessing the public accommodation on a particular occasion.   
            (Section 55.56.)


          17)Requires the court, in assessing liability in any action  
            alleging multiple claims for the same construction-related  
            accessibility violation on different particular occasions, to  
            consider the reasonableness of the plaintiff's conduct in  
            light of the plaintiff's obligation, if any, to mitigate  
            damages.  (Section 55.56.)


          18)Reduces a defendant's minimum liability for statutory damages  
            in a construction-related accessibility claim against a place  
            of public accommodation in the following circumstances: 


             a)   To a minimum of $1,000 for each unintentional offense if  
               (i) the defendant has corrected all construction-related  
               violations that are the basis of the claim within 60 days  
               of being served with the complaint, and (ii) the structure  
               was either CASp -inspected, or was new construction  
               approved in the building and permitting process, prior to  
               the complaint being filed.
             b)   To a minimum of $2,000 for each unintentional offense if  
               (i) the defendant has corrected all construction-related  
               violations that are the basis of the claim within 30 days  
               of being served with the complaint and (ii) the defendant  
               is a small business that has 25 or fewer employees and  
               annual gross receipts of less than three million five  
               hundred thousand dollars ($3,500,000) averaged over the  
               past three years.  (Section 55.56.)


          1)Separately defines "small business" for purposes of state  
            contracting as an independently owned and operated business  








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            that is not dominant in its field of operation, the principal  
            office of which is located in California, the officers of  
            which are domiciled in California, and which, together with  
            affiliates, has 100 or fewer employees, and average annual  
            gross receipts of ten million dollars ($10,000,000) or less  
            over the previous three years, or is a manufacturer, as  
            defined in subdivision (c), with 100 or fewer employees (and  
            regardless of income).  (Government Code Section 14837(d)(1).)
          2)Defines "qualified defendant" as "a defendant in an action  
            that includes a construction-related accessibility claim that  
            is asserted against a place of public accommodation that met  
            the requirements of "meets applicable standards" or "inspected  
            by a CASp" prior to the date the defendant was served with the  
            summons and complaint in that action."  (Section 55.52(a)(8).)


          FISCAL EFFECT:  As currently in print this bill is keyed fiscal.


          COMMENTS:  Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act  
          (ADA), a business that constitutes a place of public  
          accommodation (e.g., many places of lodging, entertainment,  
          recreation, restaurants, bars, theaters, stores, health clubs,  
          etc.) is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of  
          disability if its operations affect interstate commerce.   
          Prohibited discrimination can take a number of forms - e.g.,  
          denial of participation in the facility, or a service, benefit,  
          or good of the business; denial of equal participation in a  
          good, service, or facility; or provision of a different or  
          separate facility, service or good (unless necessary to provide  
          services and the like that are as effective as that provided to  
          others).  Government facilities are also covered by the access  
          obligations of the ADA.


          Public accommodations in California are required to comply with  
          not only the ADA, but also with the state's Unruh Act, which  
          incorporates the ADA into its provisions and makes a violation  
          of the ADA punishable as a violation of Unruh.  (Section 51.)   








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          All violations of Unruh are subject to statutory damages of at  
          least four thousand dollars per violation, except some cases  
          where the violation is based on a construction-related  
          accessibility claim, in which case lower damages (a minimum of  
          one thousand or two thousand dollars, depending on the  
          circumstances of the case) apply.  


          This bill furthers recent bipartisan disability access reform  
          legislation that was the result of negotiated collaboration and  
          compromise which provided pre-litigation relief to small  
          businesses.  In response to complaints that small businesses  
          were the victims of predatory lawsuits alleging ADA violations,  
          a bipartisan and bicameral effort with disability rights  
          organizations and business advocates over a period of years  
          ultimately lead to the adoption of SB 1608 (Corbett and Harman)  
          in 2008.  It was the product of extended and careful  
          consideration by thoughtful legislators and input and support  
          from members of the disability and business communities  
          including Disability Rights California, the California Chamber  
          of Commerce, the California Foundation for Independent Living  
          Centers, California Restaurant Association, Business Properties  
          Association, California Hotel Association, and several others.  


          SB 1608 enacted several reforms to increase voluntary compliance  
          with state and federal laws requiring access to the disabled in  
          any place of public accommodation.  It established incentives  
          for compliance and protection from litigation by responsible  
          businesses, including a process by which businesses, if sued for  
          violation of accessibility standards, could obtain a temporary  
          stay of any litigation along with an in-person early evaluation  
          conference with the court, attended by persons with authority to  
          resolve the dispute between the parties, for the purpose of  
          deterring frivolous cases and evaluating prospects for early  
          settlement.  Moreover, it clarified the standards for awarding  
          damages and attorney's fees with respect to a claim alleging a  
          violation of construction-related accessibility standards.  It  
          also required an attorney, when serving a written demand for  








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          money or a complaint on a defendant, to include a written  
          advisory to the defendant of the defendant's rights and  
          obligations.  In addition, the bill required architects to  
          complete coursework regarding disability access requirements and  
          imposed continuing education requirements on local building  
          officials relating to disability access requirements.


          Importantly, SB 1608 also established the California Commission  
          on Disability Access (Commission) "to develop[] recommendations  
          that will enable persons with disabilities to exercise their  
          right to full and equal access to public facilities, and that  
          will facilitate business compliance with the laws and  
          regulations to avoid unnecessary litigation." (Government Code  
          section 8299.)  Among other things, the Commission was required  
          to conduct studies and make reports to the Legislature.  The  
          Commission is responsible for monitoring compliance, reporting  
          and making recommendations to the Legislature.  Despite initial  
          funding difficulties and delays, the Commission now has staff,  
          has been meeting regularly, and is carrying out its  
          responsibilities.   


          Four years after SB 1608 was signed into law, Senate Bill 1186  
          enacted a number of additional reforms to the laws governing  
          construction-related accessibility claims.  According to the  
          Senate Judiciary Committee's analysis of SB 1186, Senator and  
          President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, who was the joint  
          author of the bill, described it as follows [emphasis added]:


               SB 1186 is a compromise that applies a common sense  
               approach to resolve difficult issues.  It maintains the  
               hard-fought civil rights of the disabled community while  
               helping to protect California businesses from predatory  
               demand for money letters and lawsuits. Support for  
               important laws like the Unruh Act and the Americans with  
               Disabilities Act are weakened when those laws are abused  
               for personal gain.  This measure bans the unscrupulous  








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               practice of 'demand for money' letters, stops the stacking  
               of claims based on alleged repeat violations to force a  
               business into a quick settlement, while encouraging  
               businesses to fix their violations to comply with the law.   
               Thus, SB 1186 provides some relief to businesses who show  
               good faith in trying to follow the law and are willing to  
               correct the violation, which ultimately promotes compliance  
               and brings greater access to the disabled community.


          Senator Dutton, the Senate Minority Leader and joint author of  
          SB 1186, described the bill as: 


               . . . the culmination of months of hard work with staff and  
               all the various stakeholders in the community.  [The bill]  
               will not only provide a reasonable amount of time for small  
               businesses to fix minor infractions, but will also help  
               expand the California Access Specialist Program in  
                         California and provide any more tools for businesses to  
               comply with this vital civil rights law. 


          The policy goal of SB 1186, according to the authors, was "to  
          incentivize property owners to correct their violations, as  
          opposed to settling the case and doing nothing, by reducing the  
          minimum statutory damages and potential attorney's fees award to  
          the plaintiff when they correct the violation." 


          Finally, SB 1186 gave defendants the option to request an early  
          evaluation conference (EEC) and an immediate and mandatory stay  
          of the proceedings, similar to the litigation protections now  
          given to a qualified defendant who hired a CASp to inspect the  
          property and issue a report on its compliance status.  A  
          mandatory stay would freeze the litigation at the point of the  
          court order, which arguably freezes the plaintiff's attorney's  
          fees at that point.  An EEC could be useful to end a case at an  
          early stage, particularly when the defendant has corrected the  








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          alleged violation.


          This bill, like these earlier bipartisan measures, seeks to  
          encourage small business owners to bring their properties into  
          compliance with the ADA and Unruh.  Specifically, it provides  
          business owners with information about the benefits of obtaining  
          CASp inspections, including their ability to request a stay of  
          proceedings in order to obtain a CASp inspection and reduce the  
          damages to which they are exposed.


          Recent and objective evidence about the magnitude of ADA/Unruh  
          litigation.  California has approximately 3.3 million small  
          businesses.  According to data compiled by the Commission, from  
          January 2014 until January 2015, 3,468 demand letters and  
          complaints were filed in the state.  This means that less than  
          one percent of small businesses (and a far smaller percentage of  
          all businesses) were sued in 2014 for violations of  
          construction-related accessibility standards.  


          Nevertheless, some of the information reported to the Commission  
          is alarming in terms of the number and frequency of  
          construction-related accessibility lawsuits being filed by a  
          small number of law firms in California.  According to the  
          Commission, between September 2012 and October 2014, 5,392  
          complaints (including demand letters) were filed (in both state  
          and federal courts).  More than half (54%) of the complaints  
          were filed by just two law firms.  Forty-six percent of all  
          complaints were filed by just 14 parties.


          However, data from the Commission shows that more attorneys are  
          choosing to file lawsuits in federal court, perhaps to avoid  
          complying with California-specific requirements, such as sending  
          demand letters to the Commission and the State Bar.   
          Interestingly, the Commission reports that the state's total  
          share of complaints and demand letters has gone down.  Between  








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          September 2012 and December 2013, state complaints/demand  
          letters represented 68% of all the complaints/demand letters  
          that the Commission received.  However, between January 2014 and  
          October 2014, state complaints/demand letters represented only  
          46% of all complaints/demand letters that the Commission  
          received.  


          What can be done or should be done about (the small number of)  
          attorneys who file large numbers of Unruh Act-ADA lawsuits?  The  
          Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed this issue in Molski v.  
          Evergreen Dynasty Corp. (9th Cir. 2008) 521 F.3d 1215.  Molski  
          was paralyzed from the chest down, needed a wheelchair to get  
          around, and filed about 400 lawsuits in the federal courts  
          within the districts in California.  (Id. at p. 1051.)  Upon  
          motion of the defendant businesses (including the named  
          defendant, a restaurant) the district court declared Molski a  
          vexatious litigant and granted the defendants' request for a  
          pre-filing order (requiring court approval before Molski could  
          file additional lawsuits).  (Ibid.)  The Ninth Circuit  
          acknowledged that "pre-filing orders are an extreme remedy that  
          should rarely be used" and that courts "should not enter  
          pre-filing orders with undue haste because such sanctions can  
          tread on a litigant's due process right of access to the  
          courts."  (Id. at p. 1057.)  Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit  
          upheld the order, finding that it was within the district  
          court's power, "In light of the district court's finding that  
          Molski did not suffer the injuries he claimed . . . to conclude  
          that the large number of complaints filed by Molski containing  
          false or exaggerated allegations of injury were vexatious" and  
          the pre-filing requirement could be issued.  (Id. at p. 1059.)


          Also, there is no evidence that these lawsuits are "frivolous."   
          The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "frivolous" as "of little  
          weight or importance," or "having no sound basis (as in fact or  
          law) ."  In other words, a lawsuit alleging  
          a violation of the Unruh Act because of a denial of access would  
          only be "frivolous" if it had no basis in the law (i.e. it did  








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          not state an actual violation).  In fact, there is no evidence  
          that the complaints which are filed are without merit.   
          According to data collected by the California Commission on  
          Disability Access, most complaints identify multiple access  
          violations.  For example, of the cases filed in July 2014, most  
          complaints identified multiple or significant single violations,  
          such as missing grab bars.  Only two out of 201 complaints  
          identified a single issue, such as a soap or seat cover  
          dispenser being too high.  Also, the most commonly cited  
          violations involve parking spaces, areas over which commercial  
          landlords have responsibility.


          Taken together, the information about the high number of  
          complaints being filed by a very small number of plaintiffs AND  
          the fact that courts now have the power and authority to limit  
          the ability of vexatious litigants to file serial Unruh-ADA  
          complaints, it seems clear that the rights of the vulnerable  
          should not be sacrificed because of the despicable conduct of a  
          few bad actors.  Also, courts clearly have tools to limit  
          vexatious litigation, but they will never be able to use those  
          tools as long as businesses settle, rather than litigate,  
          complaints.  


          This bill will help combat the problem of serial Unruh-ADA  
          litigation in two ways.  First of all, early and easy settlement  
          by business owners is a problem because it fuels the unethical  
          attorneys whose business model is easy settlement.  Business  
          owners, especially small businesses that are tenants in larger  
          shopping centers, may not be liable for the damages they think  
          they are exposed to.  Landlords are responsible for maintaining  
          parking lots in these complexes and are more likely to have the  
          resources and wherewithal to litigate or settle claims and to  
          bring the property into compliance.  Second, the availability of  
          a new answer form will allow the business owner to respond to  
          the lawsuit and, in cases where it's necessary or appropriate,  
          to do so without hiring an attorney. 









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          This bill would improve information available to businesses  
          about how and why they may qualify for the reduced statutory  
          damages and may not be responsible for ensuring that common  
          areas are accessible.  Current law provides reduced damages (a  
          minimum of $2,000 for each unintentional offense) if the  
          defendant has corrected all construction-related violations that  
          are the basis of the claim within 30 days of being served with  
          the complaint and the defendant is a small business that has 25  
          or fewer employees and annual gross receipts of less than three  
          million five hundred thousand dollars ($3,500,000) averaged over  
          the past three years.  (Section 55.56.)


          All stakeholders agree that the vast majority of these cases  
          never get to the point where a court makes any determination of  
          damages.  In fact, one of the few things about which all sides  
          agree is that the vast majority of these cases settle out of  
          court and never even reach the stage of a settlement conference.  
           The only possible solution is to find ways to increase  
          compliance with accessibility standards, educate business owners  
          about their rights and responsibilities, and give small  
          businesses and pro per defendants additional legal tools to  
          protect themselves.  This bill provides business owners with a  
          new legal tool and additional information about their rights.
          This bill may slow the rate and number of lawsuits filed by the  
          small number of attorneys who file large numbers of Unruh  
          Act-ADA lawsuits.  It is clear that a very small number of law  
          firms files a very large and disproportionate share of Unruh-ADA  
          lawsuits in California.  At the same time, courts have tools to  
          discourage vexatious litigation and recent reforms have not been  
          given adequate time to be tested.  The Legislature should not  
          further sacrifice the rights of the disabled to deal with this  
          problem, the best course of action would appear to be public  
          policy proposals that do more of the following: (1) increase  
          compliance by public accommodations with construction-related  
          accessibility standards; (2) increase information about rights  
          and responsibilities that businesses have under Unruh; (3)  
          discourage settlements by businesses of cases that either do not  








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          have merit or involve vexatious litigants; and (4) encourage  
          defendants to seek court orders against vexatious litigants like  
          the one issued against Molski. 


          This bill will further several of these goals.  An updated  
          notice will provide defendants with more information about their  
          rights and responsibilities.  The new answer form will  
          discourage quick settlement of inflated claims and exaggerated  
          settlement offers by giving the defendant business not only a  
          way to respond to the complaint (and engage in effective  
          negotiations with the plaintiff), but also information about how  
          to limit his or her liability.  This new form will be especially  
          helpful to small businesses with limited financial resources  
          because those businesses may not be able to afford to hire an  
          attorney.  


          Similar pending legislation.  AB 54 (Olsen) - provides a tax  
          credit under the Personal Income Tax Law and the Corporation Tax  
          Law to any taxpayer who obtains a certified access specialist  
          inspection.  This bill is currently in Assembly Revenue and  
          Taxation.


          AB 1230 (Gomez) - establishes, among other things, the  
          California Americans with Disabilities Act Small Business  
          Compliance Finance Act, which would provide loans, funded in  
          part by bond issuances, to assist small businesses finance the  
          costs of projects that alter or retrofit existing small business  
          facilities to comply with the federal American with Disabilities  
          Act.  This bill is currently in Assembly Appropriations.


          AB 1342 (Steinorth) - provides, among other things, additional  
          revenue to the California Commission on Disability Access.  This  
          bill is currently in Assembly Appropriations.










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          AB 1468 (Baker) - provides, among other things, that a public  
          entity's possession of a close out letter from the State  
          Architect certifying that the buildings, facilities, and other  
          places meet the applicable construction-related accessibility  
          standards of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, serves  
          as presumptive evidence of compliance with the federal Americans  
          with Disabilities Act.  This bill is currently in this Committee  
          as a two-year bill.


          SB 67 (Galgiani) - among other things, exempts a small business  
          from statutory damage liability in connection with a  
          construction-related accessibility claim and extends the period  
          for correcting construction-related violations that are the  
          basis of a claim from 60 days to 120 days of being served with  
          the complaint, for purposes of reducing a defendant's minimum  
          statutory damage liability to $1,000.  This bill is currently in  
          Senate Judiciary.


          SB 251 (Roth) - among other things, provides that a business is  
          not liable for violating a construction-related liability  
          standard if the business is an inspected CASp site and the  
          violation is corrected within 90 days of receiving the  
          above-described written inspection report from a CASp.  This  
          bill is currently in Senate Judiciary.


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California










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          Californians for Disability Rights, Inc.


          Consumer Attorneys of California


          Disability Rights California




          Opposition


          None on file




          Analysis Prepared by:Alison Merrilees / JUD. / (916) 319-2334