Lawmakers try to stop ADA 'nuisance lawsuits'

May 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
California lawmakers are holding hearings on a proposal to stop what they call "nuisance lawsuits." They say some people go looking for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and then file lawsuits.

Alfredo Garcia is disabled and the illegal immigrant has filed more than 600 lawsuits against Southern California businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Seen in a video hiking, James Cohan is clearly not disabled, but he too has filed numerous ADA lawsuits.

Then there's Noni Gotti from San Diego, whose previous lawyer filed 243 ADA lawsuits without her knowing, after her own case was settled.

In each instance, there was a lot of money to be made.

"It's not a way to make a living by going after the business owners," said Gotti.

State leaders are finally listening. They've approved a bi-partisan bill that would stem the tide of ADA lawsuit abuses. California has 40 percent of the nation's ADA lawsuits, but only 12 percent of the country's disabled population. Among other things, the proposal would put a stop to those threatening demand letters businesses get.

"It would ban demand for money letters that say, 'Pay me now, or pay me more later,' which unfortunately are sent by a few lawyers and law firms basically looking to make a quick buck," said Sen. President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

The proposal also seeks to give businesses at least 30 days to fix the problem before a lawsuit can proceed. But the disabled community should up in force, hoping to sway the committee to reject the bill. Members say access problems across California still exist.

"Do not have access. Do not have accessible parking. Do not have accessible bathrooms. All this going is on 30 years, 30 years, OK? I'm really upset," said disabled activist Connie Arnold.

Gotti is glad lawmakers took the first steps in curbing lawsuit abuses.

"It's unacceptable for this to be allowed. It shouldn't have been allowed in the first place," said Gotti.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has twice now written to state leaders threatening if they don't fix the problem, she'll introduce federal legislation.


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