SACRAMENTO - State Rep. Ken Calvert, (R-CA) spoke out against abusive litigation brought on alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) earlier in the state's legislative session saying that businesses ought to be given a reasonable period of time to fix access problems.
“There’s an increasing number of lawsuits brought under the
ADA that are based on a desire to achieve financial settlements rather than achieve the appropriate modifications for access,” he said.
Calvert's remarks came during his testimony at the Subcommittee on Constitution and
Civil Justice of the House Judiciary Committee involving a proposal dubbed "ACCESS" (Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services) Act of 2015, or H.R. 241, which
he introduced more than a year and a half ago.
241 would amend the ADA requiring claimants to provide written notice of an alleged barrier and give a business an appropriate amount of time to fix any problems before they can file suit.
In his testimony, Calvert recalled from personal experience the burden that business owners face with the threat of ADA litigation.
“As a former small business
and restaurant owner I have personally had to deal with these,” he testified. “I can say for certain that frivolous lawsuits do not accomplish any
small business owners to fix ADA violations in 120 days rather than waiting for
lengthy legal battles to play out is a more thoughtful and timely and
241’s proposed ADA reform in part resembles California Senate Bill 269 introduced by Sen.
Richard Roth (D–Riverside) that Gov. Br Jerry Brown signed into law on May 10. SB 269 will
amend the Civil Code, and the Government Code, changing how
construction-related accessibility claims proceed under the ADA, and
California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959. The bill allows businesses with
payrolls of 50 workers or less to hire a Certified Access Specialist, and with
a prior ADA access compliance inspection, receive a full 120 days to fix ADA
violations without plaintiffs filing civil penalties.
Moore is a disability rights lawyer based in San Jose. She disagrees
with Calvert’s critique of ADA litigation as off the mark.
is no crisis of “frivolous ADA lawsuits against small businesses,” Moore told the
Northern California Record. “In fact,
all complaints are now sent to the California Commission for Disability Access (CCDA)
where they chronicle the tremendous access gained through litigation. The
lawsuits which have been filed have resulted in California being one of the
most accessible states in the country.”
“California has become ground
zero for ADA lawsuits,” he said, “home to more federal disability lawsuits than
the next four states combined.”
Stone, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, agrees with Calvert’s critique of disability access litigation. She also disputes
Moore’s interpretation of government compliance figures, citing data from the
CCDA’s report to the state Legislature about 2015 ADA cases:
I see is a very small number of lawyers (70 percent of cases filed in
California in 2015 were filed by just six firms,” Stone said. “Forty
percent of the cases in 2015 were filed by just two firms who are exploiting
ADA lawsuits for their own personal gain. Many of these lawsuits are frivolous
and many of the settlements are only about money and not about requiring the
business to become compliant.”
Moore wants legislators to focus on businesses increasing their voluntary
compliance with ADA law. She said it's the best governmental policy approach to reducing
Stone countered that if businesses were allowed to fix problems before suit can be filed, two positive things would happen.
“One, the number of
extortionate ADA lawsuits would go down," Stone said. "Two, businesses would become more
accessible. This would be a tremendous improvement over the situation we’ve got
now where many businesses still are not compliant and these lawsuits, in many
cases, don’t even help improve access.
and unless we change the law, we recommend that business
owners find and hire a Certified Access Specialist and get their business
evaluated. Then we recommend they make any improvements necessary to become
compliant with the ADA.
will increase access for the disabled and is the only way for a business to
protect itself against a lawsuit."