If you have a CASp report even if you still have corrective work to do, you now have new legal rights that you did not have before. Probably the most important is that in the unlikely event that a lawsuit is still filed against your business and you have a CASp report, you can ask the court for a 90-day stay of the proceedings and request an Early Evaluation Conference (EEC). The main benefit of a stay is that it temporarily stops the litigation and attorneys will not be able to engage in motions or discovery and other activities that incur expensive fees which often prompt a small business into settling.
The EEC is a court-run conference between the parties at which time the parties can discuss a possible settlement. For example, there may be a number of no-cost improvements an owner can make such as repositioning tables in a restaurant, lowering mirrors in a toilet room etc. In addition, there may be a determination of that other cost improvements will need to be made to facilitate use by persons with disabilities. The main benefit of the EEC is that agreements are made in court where fair determinations can be made for the benefit of all parties and a small business owner will not be incurring excessive cost in obtaining these decisions.
While the 90-day stay is probably the most important new legal rights that business owners have there are many others worth noting in SB 1608:
1. Multiple Damages – In the past it was not uncommon for a plaintiff to file multiple lawsuits at a single facility for each alleged violation even if the plaintiff did not personally encounter a violation. Now damages can only be claimed when a plaintiff personally encountered a violation or was deterred from gaining access on a particular occasion. Additionally, damages can not be recovered for each and every single offense that may exist at a particular facility.
2. Demand Letters – Now when an attorney issues a demand letter to a business, they must also include an explanation of legal rights the business owner has including the ability to contact their insurance company and/or attorney and an explanation that a demand for money does not necessarily mean the business is liable.
3. Settlement Agreements – SB 1608 notes that a court can consider, among other relevant factors, reasonable written settlement offers made and rejected by either party in determining the amounts of an attorneys’ fees awarded at the conclusion of the case.