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Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill to overhaul disabled access law

September 20, 2012|By Marc Lifsher
  • Wide doors and no steps help Susan Dye get around in a wheelchair.
Wide doors and no steps help Susan Dye get around in a wheelchair. (Irfan Khan/LA Times )

SACRAMENTO -- The disabled are being promised better wheelchair access to businesses at the same time that business owners are gaining some protection against expensive, "predatory" lawsuits under legislation just signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bipartisan bill by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and state Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) overhauls state disability access law by prohibiting lawyers from sending "demand for money" letters to owners of restaurants and other high-traffic businesses.

The measure. SB 1186, also bans the stacking of multiple claims for the same alleged violation and reduces damages due from facilities that fix unintentional problems within a short time.

"The whole point of our state and federal disability access laws is to remove barriers for the disabled, giving them full and equal access to businesses like everyone else," Steinberg said Wednesday in a statement. "Up until now, unfortunately, it was often cheaper and quicker for business owners to settle out of court than to remove these obstacles."

Steinberg's proposal, which takes effect immediately, passed the state Senate on a 34-3 vote and the Assembly by 77-0.

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