Recently, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on the issue of predatory ADA lawsuits that have been hurting businesses in California. Sen. Feinstein’s letter states that while she supports the ADA, as we all do, she feels that predatory ADA lawsuits are wrong and have a dire effect on small businesses. She wants the State of California to show some leadership and stop these lawsuits. If the state does not, she said she will introduce legislation at the federal level to try and resolve it.
Her letter was sent on March 8. I guess it took a few days, but Sen. Steinberg responded on March 28, and his response was so predictable, you could have bet on it at Thunder Valley Casino and made some good money. His response was essentially, “Look Senator Feinstein, we appreciate your concern, but we have it handled. We passed a law in 2008 that is going to resolve the whole problem we just need time for it to work.”
I am sure that Sen. Steinberg had some staffer run down the hall to State Senator Ellen Corbett’s office (who authored SB 1608) to ask her what she has gotten them into and how to draft a response to get Sen. Feinstein off their backs. Sen. Corbett gave the same response as she did last year: SB 1608 is working and it just needs more time to solve the problem. This is not surprising, given that she wrote SB 1608 but has never attended a California Commission on Disability Access meeting even though she is an ex officio member. Maybe if she had, she would see that SB 1608 is simply not addressing the issue of abusive ADA lawsuits.
Quite frankly, I wish people would stop referring to SB 1608 as if it was ever designed to solve the problem of abusive ADA lawsuits. It created a commission to study the problem and the CASp (Certified Access Specialist) program, which aimed to certify people to inspect businesses for accessibility violations and help businesses come into compliance. However, all that commission was tasked with doing was creating a master checklist for ADA compliance. It is not supposed to stop the litigation problem. Even worse, it has not created the master check list and it has not even begun to “study” the litigation problem in California.
Sen. Steinberg’s response is weak. It’s as if someone handed him a memo and he took it on face value. If he had been with me in Pollock Pines on March 15 listening to 140 people complain about how their community is being destroyed by accessibility lawsuits filed by a single predatory trial lawyer, maybe he would have a different perspective.
The abusive ADA lawsuits are continuing in this state and Sen. Feinstein is right: they are having a negative impact on our state and the small business community. Lawyers Against Lawsuit Abuse estimates that there have been approximately 25,000 to 35,000 ADA lawsuits filed in California over the past few years.
This is a very complicated matter, but when a small business folds because it is facing a predatory ADA lawsuit, what does this mean to California? It means less revenue for the state from sales taxes, property taxes and employment taxes. So maybe Sen. Steinberg should think of this more as an issue costing the state revenue and jobs. SB 1608 is not working and it will not stop the ADA lawsuits. Sen. Steinberg, show some leadership like your friend Sen. Feinstein. Let’s create jobs, not lawsuits.