Friday Feb 24 2012
"Frivolous" ADA lawsuits targeted through legislation
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Gaines’ host ADA compliance workshop
A few simple changes helped Millennium Smokeshop bring its building into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. Alicia Rodriguez, regional manager for Millennium Smokeshop, said if it wasn’t able to make the changes, Carmichael-based lawyer Scott Johnson would have been able to continue his case against the building’s owner, Judy La Bonte, in court. Rodriguez said not all businesses in Auburn have been as lucky as Millennium — one reason she supports the idea of legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Roseville)to give businesses 120 days to come into compliance after a written notification before being sued. Assembly bills 1878 and 1879 are designed to help protect businesses against frivolous lawsuits, Gaines said. “I think it is a good idea that they make it tougher for them to be profiting off the law and abusive in lawsuits,” Rodriguez said. “I think for most small businesses 120 days is really not enough time to make the changes because small businesses are struggling to stay open.” Gaines said if within that 120 days businesses completed a plan with a reasonable timeline to finish the improvements with a Certified Access Specialist, they could also protect themselves from being sued. She said small-business owners, like her, are committed to access for all people, but sometimes don’t have the chance to make improvements before expensive lawsuits force them to close their doors. “When a single individual has shut down one of our businesses overnight, there is something wrong,” Gaines said. “The problem is our current legislation allows for this abuse. The point is businesses want to be compliant.” Assembly Bill 1879 would require the state architect to create a list of federal and state regulations and show conflicting regulations. Gaines said that will help businesses take the guesswork out of confusing and ever-changing regulations. In a joint effort, Gaines and Senator Ted Gaines are hosting an ADA compliance workshop for local business owners. On March 26, businesses can attend the workshop, in Rocklin, to learn about ADA laws and how to avoid lawsuits for non-compliance. Auburn architect Michelle Davis is a Certified Access Specialist. The state requires ADA compliance plans to be filled out by ADA specialists, like Davis. She said there are many changes she finds that businesses can fix for free. “I probably talk to people about this once a week,” Davis said. “I think the 120 days is fabulous, but it’s not going to be enough time for all types of projects. If they don’t know that they have to do it, they still may not be able to do it.” Gaines said especially in a difficult economy, businesses need to be protected while they make necessary changes to their buildings. She said she hopes business owners in her constituency will share their stories related to ADA compliance issues and lawsuits by contacting her via email or telephone. “I want to impress upon people that are in my district to testify, to tell their story,” Gaines said. “If they would visit my website, they could help me in committee.” Reach Sara Seyydin at firstname.lastname@example.org. _______________________________________________________ What: ADA Compliance Workshop hosted by Senator Ted Gaines and Assemblywoman Beth Gaines When: March 26, 6-8 p.m. Where: Rocklin Event Center (Main Hall), 2650 Sunset Boulevard, Rocklin Event Details: The purpose of this workshop is to educate businesses about state and federal ADA laws and present guidelines to avoid lawsuits for non-compliance. Panelists include David Peters, CEO and general counsel at lawyers against lawsuit abuse, APC and Tom Scott, executive director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. For more information, call (916) 783-8232 or (916) 774-4430.