U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein put California’s legislature on notice that if it did nothing to curb abusive lawsuits revolving around the Americans for Disability Act she would sponsor federal legislation. Feinstein put a finger on a problem that demoralizes small businesses.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, small businesses (defined as businesses with $10 million or less in annual revenue) pay more than $98-billion in lawsuit related liability costs every year.

More directly, here in California, Lawyers Against Lawsuit Abuse calculate that between 25,139 and 34,763 ADA/access lawsuits have been filed over the past few years.

Senator Feinstein’s challenge came in a letter to state Senate President Pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg. According to the Los Angeles Times, Steinberg responded that while the legislature shares her concerns, a bill passed in 2008 allows businesses to come into compliance with the ADA law and makes it tougher to sue.

However, frequent Fox and Hounds Daily contributor, Tom Scott, executive director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, wrote in an article in Law and Industry Daily “SB 1608 has had more than three years to work and nothing is happening. Nothing will happen. SB 1608 is only supposed to study the ADA litigation issue and present a report to the Legislature within the next two years. It will not stop the lawsuits.”

If so many infractions are detected in small businesses attempting to comply with the law there is something wrong with the law.

As Assembly member Mike Morrell recently wrote in hosting a seminar designed to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits, “The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law with the intention to promote a good faith effort on the part of business owners to make their businesses reasonably accessible to the disabled. Unfortunately due to loopholes in the law, predatory attorneys have targeted small and large business owners in search of minor violations in order to cash in on legal fines for a big payout.”

The good intentions of the law can be satisfied and an undue burden on small business can be achieved with common sense solutions. Allowing businesses to fix any problems brought to the business’s attention before having to deal with a lawsuit makes all the sense in the world.

Apparently not to some in the legislature.

Bills introduced by Assembly Member Beth Gaines (AB 1878) and Senator Bob Dutton (SB 1186) would give businesses an opportunity to fix problems resulting in non-compliance with ADA without having to suffer a lawsuit.

Whether either bill has any hope of passing seems problematical. Steinberg, in his answer to Feinstein, wrote that the disabled and civil rights community “objected strongly” to the so-called ‘right-to-cure’ laws.  That seems a strange position to take when the goal is to fix problems to aid those communities.

Noticeably missing from Steinberg’s list of objectors are attorneys, who are undoubtedly the most vociferous of all in opposing a ‘right-to-cure’ law.

Maybe the reasoned voice of Senator Feinstein can be heard over the complaints of those who apparently are more interested in financial gain than solving problems.