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Sen. Feinstein calls on state to curb 'abusive' ADA lawsuits

April 05, 2012

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has written to the leader of the California Senate, calling for the state to adopt legislation that would curb what she calls abusive lawsuits filed by private attorneys against small businesses for minor violations of disabled-access laws, and warning that if the state doesn’t act, she will.

Feinstein said some attorneys are filing "abusive lawsuits," and "coercive demand letters" to force small businesses to pay thousands of dollars over often-minor noncompliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and the state Unruh Civil Rights Act, according to the L.A. Times.

Businesses in Burbank and Glendale alone have been hit with dozens of lawsuits in recent years filed by James Cohan alleging they are not complying with disabled access laws.

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Under California law, at least $4,000 in compensation is allowed for each violation. Whereas federal law only requires property owners to fix violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, California is among a handful of states that allow for damages to be collected. Plaintiffs are not required to themselves be disabled, but Cohan has previously claimed he is.

"The shakedown tactics used by these lawyers may place a financial strain on businesses and counterproductively leave them unable to afford to make required access improvements,'' Feinstein wrote.

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-- Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

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