CONSTRUCTION-RELATED DISABILITY ACCESS CLAIMS INFORMATION
AB 1521, which went into effect on Oct. 10, impacts construction-related disability access claims. It includes a revision to the current mandatory written advisory that must be provided with a demand letter or complaint, requires that a verified answer form be provided with a demand letter or complaint and extends an existing requirement that lawyers send a copy of the demand letter to the State Bar, which is now required until Jan. 1, 2019.
In addition, lawyers who send or serve a complaint are now required to notify the California Commission on Disability Access within five business days of judgment, settlement or dismissal and provide the agency with certain information. It also lays out the definition of a “high-frequency litigant,” sets a special fee for those litigants of $1,000 and requires they disclose the number of previous complaints they’ve filed, the reason they were in the geographic area where they encountered the problem and state why they visited the place subject to their complaint. In addition, the legislation established procedures for a court stay and early evaluation conferences in cases that involve a high-frequency litigant and set up procedures for requesting a court order for a joint inspection of the premises during an early evaluation conference.
Significant changes to the law concerning construction-related disability access claims Senate Bill No. 1186, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), made significant changes to the law, some of which impose State Bar disciplinary consequences on lawyers. The bill contains an urgency clause, which means it was effective immediately upon enactment Sept. 19, 2012, but some of its provisions didn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2013. The bill includes the following provisions, all of which govern construction-related disability access claims:
- A general prohibition against sending a demand letter that includes a request or demand for money or an offer or agreement to accept money, effective immediately
- A revision to the existing mandatory written advisory that must be provided with a demand letter or complaint, effective immediately
- A requirement that a lawyer send a copy of a demand letter to the State Bar and the California Commission on Disability Access, effective Jan. 1, 2013
- A requirement that a demand letter sent by a lawyer include the lawyer’s State Bar license number, effective Jan. 1, 2013
- A requirement that a lawyer send a copy of a complaint to the California Commission on Disability Access, effective Jan. 1, 2013
- A requirement that demand letters and complaints contain plain language sufficient for a recipient business or property owner to determine the basis of alleged violations, including: specific identification of each access barrier encountered; the date of the incident; and a description of how each barrier interfered with full and equal access, effective Jan. 1, 2013
- A requirement that a complaint be verified by the plaintiff, effective Jan. 1, 2013. A complaint filed without verification is subject to a motion to strike
- A reduction of statutory damages if specified conditions apply, effective immediately.
Selected Statutes Pertaining to Construction-Related Disability Access Claims Can Be Found in the State Bar Publication 250: