Ed Stavneak Architecture

Architect & CASp

ARE YOU IN VIOLATION OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)?

If you are, California law allows a plaintiff to ask either the building owner or the tenant for statutory damages plus attorney's fees for alleged violations no matter how minor and even if it did not deter access in any way.   Documentation of these unjust lawsuits is easy to find by just searching the internet.  These “shakedown” lawsuits often force small business to pay cash settlements to make the problem go away rather than incur the expensive court cost to fight it.  In some cases where business owners have chosen to fight the charges, the skyrocketing cost of the lawsuit have forces them to close their doors. 

Martyn B. Hopper of the San Francisco Business Times wrote of just such an instance in 2005.   The case involved Dave Mock the owner of Mock Brothers, a saddle maker in Yucca Valley who was sued for several alleged ADA violations including a counter that was too high for persons with disabilities.   Before Dave knew it, lawyers’ fees were as high as $27.000.   Rather than proceed, Mock settled and paid a $4,000.00 settlement, but in addition to his settlement, he had to make $20,000.00 in renovations to address the ADA issues.   Instead of incurring this cost, Dave shut the doors of a business that had been founded in 1941.   While this is an extreme instance, it probably more common than you think and it is always a tragedy to see a business close and employees loose their jobs.

After this and similar reports of widespread abuse, the California Chamber of Commerce along with various business and disability rights groups and attorneys worked closely with California lawmakers to enact historic reform legislation to the California Disabilities Access Laws during the 2007 – 2008 legislative session.   This new and exciting legislation known as SB 1608 contains a number of new legal rights for business owners.

Probably the most exciting provision is the Certified Access Specialist program ( CASp) where by the State of California will after application and testing, certify certain individuals with previous disability experience as experts in disability access laws and shall designate those individuals as Certified Access Specialist (CASp).

Now business owners have a defense against frivolous lawsuits.   Under SB 1608, a business can now voluntarily enlist the services of a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) to conduct a field investigation of their business to determine compliance with ADA.  During the field investigation, the Certified Access Specialist (CASp) will make notes, check dimensions and take photographs of your business to be included in the final report.   The final report will be submitted to the owner with a determination of “Meets Applicable Standards or “Inspected by a CASp” and a window certificate will be given to the owner noting compliance or intended compliance.   For more details on the field inspection and report, see my CASp Questions & Answers  page.  After you post your window certificate, most if not all “shakedown” lawsuits will be eliminated, however, if you are still the victim of a lawsuit, and you have a CASp report, you now have New Legal Rights.

You simply can not afford not to get a CASp Report.   If you are the victim of a lawsuit, you can not take advantage of the additional legal rights unless you have a CASp report.  The cost of a report is so small when compared to the cost that could be incurred in a lawsuit that it really makes no sense to wait.  In addition to the potential money savings afforded by a CASp report, it is also good publicity to be able to assure that persons with disabilities can fully take advantage of the goods and services that your business has to offer.

This has been a brief introduction as to how a CASp Surveys can benefit your business, however, if you still have questions, please do not hesitate to see my  CASp Questions & Answers  page where you will find additional information.  Also, please do not hesitate to view my Links page to see where you can find additional information on the internet. 

Finally, you may wish to see my Contact page so that you can contact me directly with questions or to schedule a CASp survey.