, 36th District
Kathy Kassel – Executive Director, Lakeside Chamber of Commerce
– Executive Director,
Employers already struggling to survive in can’t afford to take their eye off another lurking hazard: lawsuit abuse.
Small businesses have enough on their plate entering this New Year. These job creators have the monumental task of writing a successful business plan, conforming to ever changing state regulations and making a payroll in this historically bad economic climate. Now, more of our local businesses are finding themselves in the crosshairs of predatory lawsuits on the grounds of ADA Compliance.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 with the noble purpose of preventing discrimination against people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the application of this law has been muddled by a patchwork of confusing and conflicting regulations that can change from year to year. Compounding the issue is California’s quirky law that allows private individuals to win monetary awards from businesses who get entangled by the confusing laws.
This rare circumstance has led to a rise in what has been coined “Professional Plaintiffs.” These individuals seek out businesses that are out of compliance on even the most minuscule technical grounds and without notice, or opportunity to correct, file lawsuits against the business. At $4000 dollars per incident, per day, damages in ADA lawsuits can quickly mount. In addition, since fighting these lawsuits can cost tens of thousands of dollars, many small businesses choose to settle out of court or are forced to close up shop.
This trend has made its way to East County with a string of local businesses being impacted. In Lakeside, Quality Recycling was threatened with a $50,000 lawsuit for 47 alleged instances of noncompliance. Though the case was settled out of court to avoid more costly litigation, Quality Recycling, and their landlord were still on the hook for over $20,000 dollars in settlement fees, attorney’s fees, and corrections to their properties.
But there is hope. The Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) has been providing the tools for business to protect themselves since 1979. Through legislative advocacy and the ballot box CJAC has been working towards tort reform and ending frivolous lawsuits in California, consistently ranked one of the worst States for small business legal climates in the Country. More recently their advocacy has extended to the grassroots level, to get down into communities and educate business owners, operators, and property managers on how to avoid these expensive “drive by lawsuits.”
On February 3rd the President of CJAC, Kim Stone, will visit East County to provide an important . This event, cohosted with the Santee and Lakeside Chambers of Commerce, is a proactive measure to inform our small businesses on how to avoid expensive lawsuits and provide access to an important segment of our community.
Please at Café 67 in Lakeside. To reserve your spot, or for more information, call the Lakeside Chamber of Commerce at 619-561-1031. Space is limited.