A measure authored by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), to curb predatory Americans With Disability (ADA) lawsuits against small businesses in California, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday on a 4-1 vote.
Senate Bill 1186 is aimed to help California businesses comply with the requirements of the ADA without facing the threat of frivolous lawsuits.
Both Senators Steinberg and Dutton called the bill a work-in-progress and promised to negotiate with all interests groups before a final version is passed and sent to the governor for his signature.
"There is a clearly a problem throughout California with unscrupulous attorney's using the ADA to file sometimes hundreds of lawsuits in an attempt to shakedown small businesses owners out of thousands of dollars," Senator Dutton said. "Senator Steinberg and I are committed to finding a solution to this problem this year."
Senator Dutton pointed out that 40 percent of the ADA lawsuits in the nation are filed in California, even though the state has only 12 percent of the population.
A recent report by ABC news (View here) pointed out several examples of these predatory lawsuits, including Alfred Garcia, a disabled illegal immigrant who has filed more than 600 of these lawsuits against Southern California businesses.
The story also featured Noni Gotti of San Diego, whose previous lawyer filed more than 243 ADA lawsuits without her knowledge after her original case was settled. She is now a vocal advocate for a change in the law.
"There is an opportunity to fix a serious problem that is plaguing California small businesses in the state," Senator Dutton said. "I'm hopeful Senator Steinberg and I, along with the various stakeholder groups, will be able to find a real solution that will help stop these abusive lawsuits, protect small businesses, while protecting the rights of the disabled community.
SB 1186 now heads to a vote of the full Senate.