Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SB1186 Passes: California Senate Unanimously Approves Changes to Disability Access Law

On February 22, 2012, Senator Dutton introduced Sente Bill 1186 ("SB 1186") aimed at changing California's disability access laws.  On April 30, 2012, an amended version of the Bill was introduced as a bi-partisan measure by Senator Bob Dutton (R) and Senator Darrell Steinberg (D), and it was further amended on May 16, 2012.  

The final draft of SB 1186 which unanimously passed California Senate on May 29, 2012 would amend Section 55.3 of the California Civil Code, and add Sections 55.31 and 1938 to California Civil Code, and Section 8299.05 to California Government Code.  

After the bill was approved, Senator Dutton remarked "The issue of shakedown lawsuits is affecting every county in this state and the fact that we have gotten unanimous bipartisan support of this legislation as it moves forward is proof that the issue has caught the attention of the entire Senate."  

California's disabled access law, as amended, limits plaintiffs' abilities to send written demands to potential "construction-related accessibility claim" defendants, and ability to receive any money unless and unless a court awards damages to the plaintiff.  The law emphasizes correction of potential accessibility violations, rather than recovery of money damages by plaintiffs.  The law now provides a safe harbor for buildings that have been inspected by a Certified Access Specialist.  

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA") was enacted by the United States Congress in 1990 and signed into law by President George Herbert Walker Bush.  The ADA was intended as a civil rights legislation for the protect of the disabled.  Various states have enacted state laws modeled after the ADA, but some state laws may be in conflict with ADA's provisions or surpass its intended scope.  

Robin Mashal is a California litigation attorney, and the managing shareholder of Century City Law Group, APC, whose offices are located at 1875 Century Park East, Sixth Floor, Los Angeles, California 90067-2507.