Jury Still Out on Whether Bill will Stymie Access Lawsuit Abuse

June 22, 2016
Elizabeth B. Stallard
Daily Journal

The availability of statutory civil damages for disability access violations under state law, paired with the availability of attorney fees recovery under federal law, has made pursuing access claims a very lucrative endeavor in California. In fact, according to statistics reported by NBC News in February 2014, an examination of all federal access lawsuits filed bet'-Neen 2005 and 2013 indicated that the number of access lawsuits filed in California was 7, 188 - more than the next closest five states combined. 

Over the past several years, faced with increasing public frustration over the extraordinary number of access lawsuits (often filed by a small group of serial plaintiffs and their serial counsel), efforts have been made to reduce these claims. The goal has been to deter claimants from filing claims - and if they cannot be deterred, at least make it so they exact a smaller harm on the businesses they pursue. A topic often addressed as part of this conversation is the need for a grace period - time for a business to correct access violations before damages may be recovered. Yet each time proposals intended to limit damages or provide grace periods have been brought to the state Legislature, the final legislation that resulted from the effort has been significantly less powerful than its initial incarnation. 
 

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