Written by Gordon Webster, Jr.
At any one time in Fresno, there are between 50 and 100 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits plaguing small business owners.
Statewide, that number is 1,000 to 2,000.
That’s according to Julie Griffiths, the regional director for California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. Griffiths, the California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups are applauding the recent passage into law of SB 269, which incentivizes business owners to proactively take steps to become more accessible to disabled people, and also gives business owners time to remedy any compliance issues.
It’s been for at least the last six years that mostly out-of-the-area attorneys have been suing small businesses up and down the Valley for oftentimes minor ADA compliance issues such as faded handicapped parking signs or a restroom sink that is too high for wheelchair access.
According to a recent article by The Business Journal reporter George Lurie, gas stations along Highway 99 as well as small retail shops and restaurants are common targets of so-called “drive-by” lawsuits. Many are mom-and-pop operations earning no more than $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
Many owners are forced out of business as a result of these suits.
While it’s encouraging that Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 269, in many ways it doesn’t go far enough. Legislators including Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank) have floated bills that would actually make it tougher for serial litigants to file lawsuits, and would make it less lucrative.
Let’s hope those measures can someday enjoy the bipartisan support that SB 269 had.