Blakeslee Votes To Protect Small Businesses From Drive-By Lawsuits

Businesses would have more opportunities to make ADA improvements before facing fines

In 2004, a string of ADA lawsuits took a tremendous toll on small businesses up and down the Central Coast as one career litigant went building to building measuring doorways and hallways, in an effort to extort thousands of dollars in settlement fees.  Even though the overwhelming majority of these violations were unintentional or technical, each business owner was given an identically generic and non-specific letter of intent stating that the business could choose to settle or face a costly lawsuit.  This year in the Senate, multiple bills (SBs 1163, 783, and 1186) authored by legislators of both parties are aiming to prevent predatory lawsuits such as these.

“When facility upgrades are required, we want business owners to spend their limited dollars increasing access, not being shaken down by professional plaintiffs,” said Blakeslee.  “These bills are a good middle ground.  I believe they are respectful of the rights of disabled Californians while giving business owners a fair chance to make the required improvements.”

A shared focus of each bill was the notice requirements which must be followed when a business has not met ADA code requirements.  In spite of Senator Blakeslee’s support, both SB 1163 and SB 783 died in Senate Judiciary Committee on a party line vote.  One weaker bill, SB 1186, moved out of both Judiciary and Appropriations as well as the Senate Floor and will be sent to the Assembly for analysis and voting.

Blakeslee Supported CalChamber Bill, Dies On Party Vote

Bill would protect citizens who are following state agency instructions from being penalized by other agencies.

With over 500 agencies that enforce state laws, it’s little wonder that California continues to rank amongst the worst business climates in the nation.  Because of this sheer number and lack of coordination between agencies, businesses or individuals trying to follow the advice of one state agency often find themselves in conflict with another agency’s rules and regulations.  Seeking a common sense remedy for residents and employers trying to do the right thing, Senator Sam Blakeslee recently supported a common sense measure, SB 1374. This bill offers that a citizen following the written advice of an agency cannot be punished for inadvertently violating a conflicting government requirement.  In other words, if an agency offers advice, then that advice can be relied upon.

“Most people are doing their best to properly navigate labyrinth of regulatory bureaucracy that is often complex, confusing and contradictory,” said Senator Blakeslee, who supported the bill in committee.  “If some California agency says ‘Go this way’ and then another says ‘Wrong way – pay up’ – what are people supposed to do?  What more proof do we need that our government is out of touch than the fact that a Californian can be punished by the state for following the state’s rules.”

Though the bill had a lengthy list of supporters, it was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party line vote