CDA-supported bill protects practices in disability lawsuits

Recently passed legislation provides some extra protection for small businesses against claims of disabled access violations. Effective May 10, 2016, SB 269 allows small businesses a 15-day period to correct certain technical violations of disabled access design requirements.

The Legislature determined that these technical violations are presumed to not cause a person difficulty, discomfort or embarrassment for the purpose of an award of statutory damages in a construction-related accessibility claim.

The violations eligible for the 15-day grace period relate to signage and include the following:

  • Interior signs, other than directional signs or signs that identify the location of accessible elements, facilities or features, when not all such elements, facilities or features are accessible.
  • The lack of exterior signs, other than parking signs and directional signs, including signs that indicate the location of accessible pathways or entrance and exit doors when not all pathways and entrance and exit doors are accessible.
  • The order in which parking signs are placed or the exact location or wording of parking signs, provided that the parking signs are clearly visible and indicate the location of accessible parking and van-accessible parking.
  • The color of parking signs, provided that the color of the background contrasts with the color of the information on the sign.
  • The color of parking lot striping, provided that it exists and provides sufficient contrast with the surface upon which it is applied to be reasonably visible.
  • Faded, chipped, damaged or deteriorated paint in otherwise fully compliant parking spaces and passenger access aisles in parking lots, provided that it indicates the required dimensions of a parking space or access aisle in a manner that is reasonably visible.
  • The presence or condition of detectable warning surfaces on ramps, except where the ramp is part of a pedestrian path of travel that intersects with a vehicular lane or other hazardous area.

The bill also provides that small businesses will not be liable for damages in construction-related accessibility claims for 120 days following the date of an inspection by a certified access specialist (CASp), if the following conditions are met:

  • The business employs 50 or fewer employees on average over the last three years, or for the years it has been in existence if fewer than three years.
  • The structure or area of the alleged violation was the subject of an inspection report indicating "CASp determination pending" or "Inspected by a CASp."
  • The inspection predates the filing of a claim or demand letter from a plaintiff.
  • The business has corrected, within 120 days of the date of the inspection, all construction-related violations in the structure or area inspected by the CASp that are noted in the CASp report that are the basis for the claim.

A business may only claim the protection from liability once for each structure or area inspected by the CASp.

It is important for dental practices to know that while this legislation does provide for some legal protection, the only true protection is full compliance with disabled access design requirements. CDA recommends practices utilize the state's CASp program.

For more information on the CASp program, visit dgs.ca.gov.

More information on disabled access design and the CASp program can be found at cda.org/practicesupport.

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