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Opinion: SB 585 Will Protect California’s Small Businesses by Stopping Frivolous ADA Lawsuits

Article Via: Judy Fitzgerald; Times of San Diego

Small business owner. Photo courtesy Small Business Administration


California is on a path forward to alleviate an unjust burden that has plagued small business owners statewide for years. With the support of our San Diego-area state Senators Brian Jones, Toni Atkins and Catherine Blakespear, Senate Bill 585 passed the upper chamber and is a shining example of what standing up for local businesses and family-owned operations looks like.


SB 585 tackles an issue the average Californian isn’t very familiar with, but small business owners know all too well. Frivolous lawsuits citing the Americans with Disabilities Act have been draining local economies, hurting families, and exploiting the state’s justice system.


As someone who owned a small business here in San Diego County, I can attest to the fear many entrepreneurs feel for being targeted by an unjust lawsuit over ADA access. Unfortunately, it happens to people all the time. An unjust lawsuit can mean the end of your livelihood, being forced to move outside the state, or having to lay off valued staff members that you’ve known for years.


SB 585 aims to steer the incentives of trial lawyers who seek out frivolous lawsuits back toward the authentic pursuit of justice, rather than the pursuit of a payout, by giving business owners 120 days to correct any accessibility problem.


In fact, lawsuit abuse in California is highly costly for individuals. According to a study by The Perryman Group, lawsuit abuse costs every single California resident nearly $2,000 annually. That’s because businesses must raise the cost of California goods and services to survive lawsuits and keep employees.


SB 585, authored by Sacramento-area Sen. Roger Niello, addresses attorney’s fees, costs related to accessibility claims, and statutory damages, all of which finally put the necessary safeguards for small businesses in place. Trial attorneys would have a tougher time ginning up opportunistic lawsuits that attack businesses for simple mistakes or ridiculous accusations that can be fixed outside courtrooms.


Importantly, while reforming the accessibility claims process, the bill also includes an amendment that would protect the rights of disabled Californians. The bill commits to advancing equal opportunities and inclusivity for disabled communities, promoting a culture of equity and fairness in our state. Despite attempts from trial lawyers to impugn the bill’s intentions, their claims are clearly misleading disinformation.


Senators Jones, Atkins and Blakespear showed that they are on the right side of this issue. By voting in favor of SB 585, California is taking a much-needed step in the right direction, offering small businesses a fair justice system while also layering in new protections for disabled individuals. This bill may have passed the Senate, but the push for it to become law is not over.


It’s time for the State Assembly to do the same, especially the elected Assemblymembers of the San Diego area. Our San Diego County delegation has an opportunity to vote in favor of a bill that strengthens justice and protects disabled persons. The only parties that stand to lose by passing SB 585 are trial attorneys who become wealthy by creating faux lawsuits and destroying livelihoods of small-business owners throughout our state.


Voting for SB 585 demonstrates a quality of leadership that we desperately need in our state. It’s time to see this bill through to the end.


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