Calif. lawmakers seek to end Americans with Disabilities Act 'nuisance' lawsuits


Eyewitness News has highlighted a number of local serial plaintiffs, who target small businesses over minor ADA infractions, often costing those businesses major money.

Alfredo Garcia is disabled and the illegal immigrant has filed more than 600 lawsuits against Southern California businesses for violating the American with Disabilities Act.

James Cohan, caught on tape hiking a steep hill, is clearly not disabled. He too has filed numerous ADA lawsuits.

Then there's Noni Gotti from San Diego, whose previous lawyer filed 243 ADA lawsuits without her knowing after her own case was settled.

In each instance, there was a lot of money to be made.

"It's not a way to make a living by going after the business owners," said lawsuit victim Noni Gotti.

State leaders are finally listening. They've approved a bipartisan bill that would stem the tide of ADA lawsuit abuses.

California has 40 percent of the nation's ADA lawsuits, but only 12 percent of the country's disabled population.

Among other things, the proposal would put a stop to threatening demand letters businesses get.

"It would ban demand for money letters that say, 'Pay me now, or pay me more later,' which unfortunately are sent by a few lawyers and law firms basically looking to make a quick buck," said state Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

The proposal also seeks to give businesses at least 30 days to fix the problem before a lawsuit can proceed.

But the disabled community showed up in force, hoping to sway the committee to reject the bill.

Members say access problems across California still exist.

"You don't have access. You don't not have accessible parking, do not have accessible bathrooms. All this is going on 30 years -- 30 years," said Connie Arnold, a disability activist. "I'm really upset."

Gotti is glad lawmakers took the first steps in curbing the abuse.

"It's unacceptable for this to be allowed," said Gotti. "It shouldn't have happened in the first place."

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has now twice written to state leaders threatening to introduce federal legislation if they don't fix the problem.

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