BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1521


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          Date of Hearing:  May 20, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                                 Jimmy Gomez, Chair


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


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          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:








                                                                    AB 1521


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          1)Revises the notice of rights and responsibilities, which is  
            required by current law to be provided to a defendant  
            contemporaneously with service of a complaint or demand letter  
            alleging a construction-related accessibility claim or  
            noncompliance, to advise the defendant that:


             a)   If found liable by a court, they may be able to reduce  
               the amount of money the court orders them to pay in  
               damages, and that, if they are a small business owner and  
               correct all of the construction-related violations within  
               30 days of being served, they may qualify for reduced  
               damages. The notice is to also advise the defendant that,  
               if they believe they qualify for reduced damages, they 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.


             b)   If they are a commercial tenant, they may not be  
               responsible for ensuring that some or all portions of the  
               premises they lease, such as common areas and parking lots,  
               are accessible because those areas may be the  
               responsibility of their landlord, and that they may want to  
               refer to their lease agreement, or consult with the  
               landlord or an attorney, to determine if the landlord is  
               responsible under the terms of the lease for maintaining  
               and improving some or all of the leased areas.  


          2)Requires the Judicial Council, by July 1, 2016, to revise the  
            notice per (1) and to develop a form to facilitate a  
            defendant's response to an ADA-related complaint, as  
            specified.










                                                                    AB 1521


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          FISCAL EFFECT:


          Minor and absorbable costs to the Judicial Council to revise the  
          notice and develop the required form.


          COMMENTS:


          Background and Purpose. Information reported to the CCDA  
          indicates that a significant portion of construction-related  
          accessibility lawsuits are 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, and 46% of all complaints were filed by just 14  
          parties.





          This bill is intended to help combat the problem of serial ADA  
          litigation.  Early and easy settlement of claims by business  
          owners is a problem because it fuels the unethical attorneys  
          whose business model is an 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.  













                                                                    AB 1521


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          The updated notice required by this bill 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.  


          Analysis Prepared by:Chuck Nicol / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081