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Feinstein Urges Brown to Sign ADA Reform Bill

Will prevent predatory lawsuits against small business owners in California

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today wrote a letter to California Governor Jerry Brown urging him to sign Senate Bill 1186, which would provide reform and protection to small businesses under California’s Americans with Disabilities Act:

Text of the letter follows:

September 12, 2012

 

The Honorable Jerry Brown
Governor
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Jerry:

I am writing to urge you to sign S.B. 1186, a bill that would amend California’s disability access law to prevent predatory lawsuits against small business owners.  

Numerous small businesses and chambers of commerce in California have expressed to me their concern about the increasing number of predatory lawsuits and coercive demand letters that have been filed against small business owners for technical noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As you know, I proudly support the ADA, but after learning of the alarming rate of demand letters sent to “mom and pop shops” requesting settlements that ranged from $5,000 to $90,000, it became clear to me that reform in this area of the law is necessary.

I understand that Senators Steinberg and Dutton have worked diligently throughout the summer months to craft the compromise agreement that is embodied in S.B. 1186. After months of deliberation and vetting ideas with the disability rights and business communities, S.B. 1186 was amended and overwhelmingly passed in both chambers. This bipartisan legislation is now awaiting your signature.

Listed below are a few highlights of the legislation that I believe are meaningful improvements to the current state law, and will bring needed relief to small businesses from these predatory lawsuits and demand letters, while still preserving needed access for Californians with disabilities. The bill:

  • Reduces statutory damages from $4,000 to $2,000 for defendants who correct violations within 30 days of being served the complaint.
  • Prevents stacking of multiple claims used to increase statutory damages.
  • Bans attorneys from sending demand letters for money and creates new rules for demand letters.
  • Requires the State Bar of California to track and record demand letters.
  • Requires commercial property owners to notify tenants whether the property has been inspected by a certified access specialist (CASp).

I urge you to support this important legislation that promises to bring much-needed reform. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and for all you do for California.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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