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Monday, March 14, 2016

U.S. Congressman Initiates ADA Reform for Business Access

STOCKTON, Calif. – The legislative battle against some predatory lawsuits – a nearly impossible task at the state level – is jumping from California to Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney said this week.

article BY GARTH STAPLEY for The Modesto Bee | March 9, 2016

A fairly small number of individuals and firms are causing this havoc in our businesses,” McNerney, D-Calif., said while announcing federal legislation aimed at significant reform. “A handful of bad actors have taken advantage of the law just to make money.”
Jerry McNerney, representative, 9th Congressional District

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/news/article65119747.html#storylink=cpy
He referred to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that businesses make life easier for customers with disabilities. Critics say it’s being used in concert with California law to extort payouts from bewildered companies without helping those with disabilities much.

Special reports by The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star in 2014 found that more than 60 businesses had been slapped with ADA lawsuits in Stanislaus and Merced counties. Barnwood Restaurant & Catering in Ripon and Ming’s Restaurant in Los Banos closed rather than fight in court or buckle to settlement demands for tens of thousands of dollars.

Some drive-by plaintiffs “have no intention of entering and enjoying a business,” said McNerney, whose 9th Congressional District includes parts of San Joaquin, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties.

“We had to move,” said Steve Grant, owner of Chuck’s Hamburgers, after 56 years in what had become an outdated Stockton building. Its hallways and bathrooms were too small under ADA regulations, and Grant’s landlord was unwilling to make changes, he said.
3,468ADA lawsuits facing California businesses, 2012-14
2Law firms responsible for 54 percent of those lawsuits

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/news/article65119747.html#storylink=cpy
Last year, California lawmakers Kristin Olsen, Cathleen Galgiani and Adam Gray all introduced ADA reform bills in Sacramento with controversial “right to cure” provisions giving businesses time to fix violations. Facing stiff opposition, Gray and Galgiani withdrew theirs; the legislature eventually passed a version of Olsen’s after it was watered down, but Gov. Jerry Brown objected to its $250 tax credit for businesses making improvements and vetoed it.

Olsen rebounded this year with Assembly Bill 54, co-authored by Gray, which would require reporting of certain information in a standard format to the California Commission on Disability Access. Both also signed on to Senate Bill 269, which would give businesses with less than 50 employees 120 days to make minor repairs under narrowly tailed conditions that would not apply in most cases. Both bills continue to move through the legislature in Sacramento.

McNerney’s U.S. House of Representatives Bill 4719 aims higher, allowing companies 90 days to correct deficiencies and another 30 days if owners are making “good faith” efforts such as obtaining construction permits or hiring contractors. The legislation also contains a “public shaming” requirement that shops post notices visible to customers while in the process of correcting problems encountered by people with disabilities.

The congressman calls it his COMPLI Act, or Correcting Obstructions to Mediate, Prevent and Limit Inaccessibility. It would define anyone bringing 10 or more lawsuits in a year as a high-frequency litigant, with restrictions on filing more.

Some plaintiffs in Stanislaus County and Merced cases were behind numerous lawsuits, The Bee and Sun-Star found. They include Robert McCarthy, an Arizona man who has sued hundreds of California businesses over 14 years, except when incarcerated on child pornography and fraud convictions.
Rachelle Golden, attorney, Fresno

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/news/article65119747.html#storylink=cpy
McCarthy and others have sued in federal court as well as at the county level.

Olsen issued a release commending McNerney and saying it’s “crucial that leaders at both the state and federal level continue to work together” on such reform.

Fresno attorney Rachelle Golden called McNerney’s effort “an amazing step in the right direction.” Injured in a 1999 snowboarding accident, she uses a wheelchair but sympathizes with – and defends in court – companies slapped with ADA lawsuits.

Although conceived as an “important and beautiful thought,” Golden said, “the ADA is severely abused and has become a money-making scheme for a small handful of attorneys and serial plaintiffs.”

© 2016 The Modesto Bee

1 comment:

Jim Watkins, Ability Chicago Info said...

We received the following comment on the unbelievable attempt by U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) to limit ADA complaints for accessibility to businesses:

This is my response to the article about the business being sued for not complying with the ADA. There is no such thing as a frivolous ADA lawsuit.

I don't feel sorry for any business that is not in compliance with the ADA that gets sued for noncompliance. The ADA has been law for 25 years. For many years, businesses used the excuse, oh well it's old I'm “grandfathered” I don’t have to do anything. There is no "grandfather" clause in the ADA... So, the law was amended in 2010, to say that all public accommodations must do what is "readily achievable". If the business owner has failed to do that, then I believe that yes, they deserve to be forced to do it. If they can't meet that obligation to be accessible to all, then close that door. If it were their family member that could not enter or use the facility, they would care enough to do what is readily achievable instead of doing absolutely nothing to remove barriers for years. When a person becomes disabled, many times it happens in one second. Then they have to change their entire life. They must pay double the price for a modified ramp vehicle. They must make their home accessible by widening doors and installing ramps and remodeling bathrooms. They must change everything. What happened to the saying “you can do anything you want” and “where there is a will there is a way". When it has to be done it will.

There are no ADA police or code officers going along making sure things are done right even when buildings are built new or remodeled. It's the responsibility of the building owner to comply with the ADA law. The information is available, if a business owner really cares they can do the right thing. If not ... one day they may be forced to comply, not just in one area but in all. That’s like the restaurant that has no ramp that we have asked for 3 years to fix the 2 inch rise at the door that stops a power wheelchair. A simple, easy fix that would cost very little. Yet, for 3 years, they simply refuse to fix that. When a lawyer is hired, if you can find one that is willing to take that case, when an ADA lawsuit is filed, and it goes before a judge, it's for 100 percent building compliance. In court, after all that effort and money a judge won’t just say... fix that 2 inch rise.They will force the business to be fully compliant... meaning bathroom, accessible parking spaces, adequate route to dining table, height of dining tables, etc. So who chose to be put in that position to be forced to comply with the law? The business owner did by breaking the law in the first place...and in the second place by failing to do what is readily achievable to remove that 2 inch barrier. Far as I'm concerned there are no frivolous ADA lawsuits. It cost money to go out and hire a lawyer and do a building audit and draw up architectural plans and then pay court costs. Who is responsible for that cost when the entire lawsuit can be avoided if businesses just abide by that law… If 100 years pass there will still be business that fail to comply with this law and be inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.

Thanks, Dena