WHAT IS CASp?
CASp stands for Certified Access Specialist and is an expert in the field of construction-related accessibility. A CASp is certified by the Division of State Architect and is licensed to inspect and grant "Qualified Defendant" status to their clients. The CASp program is governed by California Senate Bill 1608, a bill designed in combat to a growing number of "shakedown lawsuits" that is costing California businesses tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The law protects proactive property owners and businesses from "shakedown lawsuits" by licensing experts in the complex field of accessibility (Certified Access Specialists) to perform property inspections and educate the owner about any compliance issues on their property and then create an plan to fix those issues within the owners budget. Regardless of the outcome of the inspection, the owner WILL be granted "Qualified Defendant" status and is granted all of the legal benefits that come with it.
WHAT IS A QUALIFIED DEFENDANT?
A defendant in a construction-related accessibility claim against a place of public accommodation becomes a "qualified defendant" if a CASp has performed an inspection of the area with the violation and has issued a CASp inspection report to the business/facility owner prior to the date the defendant was served with a lawsuit. The CASp inspection report should state a determination of either “meets applicable standards” or “inspected by a CASp”. A report with a determination “inspected by a CASp” will identify violations of the applicable standards, list necessary improvements for their correction, and will be accompanied by a schedule for completion of the improvements over a reasonable time. Upon being served with a lawsuit asserting a construction-related accessibility claim, a "qualified defendant" may request a court stay to postpone legal proceedings and an early evaluation conference. In addition, a "qualified defendant" may be entitled to reduced minimum statutory damages from $4,000 to 1,000 per occasion that the plaintiff was denied access.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A CASp INSPECTION?
- A site survey by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp)
- A detailed report listing any accessibility findings
- Pictures of all accessibility findings
- Advise on how to correct the findings
- A numbered CASp Certificate issued by the California Division of State Architects
- Legal benefits as described in SB 1608 and 1186.
- And of course, an experienced professional to walk you through the results of your inspection and answer any questions that you may have.
HOW WILL A CASP INSPECTION PROTECT ME?
The goal of Senate Bill 1608 and 1186, the law that governs CASp is to encourage owners to make their properties accessible to the disabled community and grant protection from what is commonly referred to as "shakedown lawsuits". By getting CASp inspected, regardless of the results, you will be granted "Qualified Defendant" status which grants you special legal rights against accessibility related lawsuits. This protection includes:
- 90 Day stay of a lawsuit ( A three month freeze on the prosecution's case, where they would be able to rack up attorneys fee that you would otherwise be responsible for. This would also give you time to correct any violations and ask for a dismissal.)
- Mandatory Early Evaluation Conference (EEC) within 35 days.
- The plaintiff must provide basis of claimed violation as cost 15 days prior to EEC.
- Minimum statutory damages could be reduced from $4,000 per occurrence to $1,000 per occurrence.
- By displaying you certificate of inspection, it will discourage an attorney from identifying your property as an "easy target". (Over 90% of accessibility related lawsuits are settled. The goal of a shakedown lawsuit is to force you to settle without having to spend the time and effort to fight you in court).
- After you are inspected, you have an opportunity to make a plan to correct any issues found and then add costs into your upcoming budgets rather than getting blindsided with the legal and construction expenses.