The local ABC affiliate in Fresno, CA reports on what they are terming as rash of potential "drive-by" ADA lawsuits. The problem is that although these lawsuits may involve actual ADA violations in dozens of small, local businesses, the fear is not about the ADA, but about a California state law. California's Unruh Civil Rights Act (CC §51) and Disabled Persons Act (CC § §54—55.2) allow a statutory penalty against businesses for discrimination against persons with disabilities. The Unruh Act defines any ADA violation as an act of discrimination under state law, and these can be interpreted as a general service denial, or a hyper-technical deviation from strict compliance with the ADA accessibility standards. CC §51(f). Neither intent to discriminate nor actual harm is required, and the amount of the penalty is $4000 per violation. CC § 52(a), and the potential award of attorneys' fees. It is clear that knowing your ADA compliance picture is an important part of limiting potential liability, and particularly if you are doing business with the public in California.
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