Measure aims to check ADA lawsuit abuse in Calif.

4:24 PM, May 8, 2012   |    comments
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Alfredo Garcia is disabled and the illegal immigrant has filed more than 600 lawsuits against Southern California businesses for violating the American with Disabilities Act.

James Cohan, who has been seen hiking, is clearly not disabled. He too has filed numerous ADA lawsuits.

Then there's Noni Gotti from San Diego, whose previous lawyer filed 243 ADA lawsuit 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 business owners," Gotti said.

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 (SB 1186).

"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 Senate. President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

The proposal also seeks to give businesses at least 30 days to fix the problem before a lawsuit can proceed (SB 783).

But the disabled community stood 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 on 30 years, okay?" said disabled activist Connie Arnold. "I'm really upset."

Gotti is glad lawmakers took the first steps in curbing the abuse.

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

Nannette Miranda




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