In the fall of 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1186 (SB 1186). Among other things, SB 1186 reforms California’s disability access laws by: (1) banning pre-lawsuit letters from lawyers demanding money; (2) creating new provisions to prevent “stacking” of multiple claims to increase statutory damages; and (3) requiring that demand letters identify the barriers that prevented full and equal access to the business premises or services, as well as the dates the disabled person encountered those barriers. The new law also reduces the amount of statutory damages available for unintentional violations of the law in certain circumstances, if the necessary changes are made soon after a suit is filed.
SB 1186 additionally amends California Civil Code § 1938 and imposes a new disclosure duty on commercial landlords. For all commercial property leases entered into on or after July 1, 2013, the landlord must disclose in the lease: (1) whether the leased premises have been inspected by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) and if so, (2) whether the leased premises have (or have not) been determined to meet all applicable construction-related access standards under California law. Under certain circumstances, a CASp inspection may be useful to limit the statutory damages that a plaintiff may recover in a disability access case.