Will 2015 be the year we see substantial reforms to stop lawsuit abuse associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? We are off to a good start with the introduction of AB 54 by Republican Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen and AB 52 by Democrat Assemblyman Adam Gray.
Both bills already have bipartisan co-authors, and both bills would establish incentives for fixing alleged violations without lawsuits. AB 54 would give businesses 60 days to update facilities once a violation is spotted before a lawsuit could proceed, and AB 52 would significantly reduce damages awarded in a lawsuit if alleged violations are corrected within 180 days.
While we have seen variations of these bills in the past, I am hopeful that the California Legislature and Governor Brown can see that well-intentioned laws are being blatantly abused by self-serving trial lawyers. We all want to promote disability access in California. The bottom line is that the ADA is a very complicated law and it is absurd to assume that all of California’s 3.5 million small businesses can understand its provisions.
Instead of using trial lawyers as the enforcement mechanism and allowing them to profit from shakedown lawsuits against businesses, we should all work together to increase accessibility without incentivizing the kind of lawsuit abuse that hasdestroyed businesses and jobs in our state. When a business closes due to a lawsuit, no one benefits. Everyone will have one fewer business from which to buy goods and services, jobs will be lost, and employment and property taxes will vanish.
While many of these trial lawyers file their lawsuits in federal court, AB 52 and AB 54 will get the state on the right path toward stopping this abuse. The bipartisan support behind both bills demonstrates that lawsuit abuse hurts us all regardless of our political affiliation, and will be vital in helping these bills move through the legislative process in Sacramento.
Congrats to Assemblymembers Olsen and Gray for leading the charge for ADA lawsuit abuse reform. CALA applauds you and will support your efforts, and hopes these bills will succeed and set the stage for a federal solution.