On Sunday, October 11, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill
1230, known as the California Americans with Disabilities Capital Access
Loan Program. The law is designed to provide funds to California small
businesses so that they may make renovations and improvements to their
facilities in order to bring the establishments into line with the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements regarding access to businesses.
Not only does this improve access for disabled individuals, enabling them
to comfortably make use of more facilities and services, but it also helps
protect the business owners from lawsuits filed on behalf of disabled
clients alleging violations of the ADA.
What Remedies Can Be Ordered After a Successful ADA Access Lawsuit?
Generally speaking, the ADA requires businesses to take readily achievable
measures to remove architectural barriers that impede a disabled individual’s
ability to access and make use of a business’s facilities and establishment.
Determining whether a modification or measure is “readily achievable”
is a fact-based inquiry that looks at the cost of the modification, the
resources of the business, and how the modification will impact the business’s
continuing function. Given that the intent of the ADA is to improve access
to public facilities and private businesses open to the public for those
of limited mobility, one might conclude that in any ADA access lawsuit,
the odds are in favor of the disabled individual.
A successful ADA access lawsuit allows the prevailing individual to recover
his or her fees as well as civil penalties. The business may also be ordered
to make appropriate modifications to their facilities in order to bring
the facilities into compliance with the ADA. This alone may cost businesses
thousands of dollars. The ADA also allows for the court to impose a civil
penalty upon the business that can be as high as $55,000 for a first violation
of the ADA: subsequent violations can be punished by up to $110,000 in
fines for each additional violation. Finally, the ADA allows the prevailing
plaintiff to recover his or her “reasonable expenses” incurred
in bringing the suit. This would include not only the cost of his or her
legal team but could also include administrative costs and filing fees
as well as expert witness fees and costs. All told, a first violation
of the ADA access rules by a business can end up costing that business
tens of thousands of dollars – if not more – in fines and costs.
The Hidden Benefit of This New Law
The law signed by Governor Brown directly benefits disabled individuals
in that it enables small businesses who may not have many resources to
make much-needed improvements to the accessibility of their facilities.
But the availability of these funds to small businesses can also benefit
disabled individuals who find it necessary to file a lawsuit against a
business over the business’s lack of ADA access compliance. A business
will now have a much more difficult time arguing that it did not have
the resources necessary to make improvements to its facility’s accessibility;
this in turn should make it easier for disabled plaintiffs to establish
a violation of the ADA.
Contact a Seasoned California ADA Access Plaintiff’s Attorney
Attorney Gay Carroll-Haring at The Law Offices of Gay Carroll-Haring is
here to assist you if you are a disabled resident of California and have
encountered a business that has refused to make reasonable accommodations
to enable you to access the business or facility. Gay Caroll-Haring vigorously
and professionally represents the interests of her clients and works tirelessly
to achieve a favorable outcome on their behalf. Contact her office today
and discuss your case by calling (916) 443-3553 or by filling out the
contact form here.