As we continue to expand the outreach of vaccinations in Santa Cruz County, I can’t help but continue to think of the impacts Covid-19 has had on our community and schools. Entering this new year, we should reflect a bit and also continue to pursue solutions for our current challenges.
As Watsonville businesses and schools wait anxiously for the healthy reopening of our local economy, let’s not forget the challenges that have existed for years for our local Watsonville business owners and entrepreneurs, and that is abusive lawsuits, especially in this time of Covid-19. Our Watsonville community needs protection against what has been a wave of Covid-19 lawsuits aimed at shaking down our local mom and pop businesses, and on top of the ongoing threat of frivolous ADA lawsuits and many others abusive lawsuits that can take our businesses down in a blink of an eye.
In recent years, local businesses have been the target of frivolous ADA lawsuits that have even hammered some so hard that they had to close their doors. Halfway through 2020, California had the most federal Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility lawsuits compared to any other state—2,702. We have heard stories of trial attorneys driving up and down the state, in some cases finding the most minor issues in the ADA law to sue that business. From a mirror in the restroom being 1-inch too high, to an ADA parking space being painted with the incorrect color of blue, these abusive lawsuits need to stop.
Now, though they are hanging on by a string, these same lawsuit-abuse attorneys are back at it, but now attacking the business community via abusive Covid-19 lawsuits. These attorneys are looking for anyone willing to carry a lawsuit for them, so they can claim the person contracted Covid-19 with absolutely no proof of it. As of this month, California had not enacted any liability protections for frontline health care workers, small businesses, or other employers.
Watsonville business owners and employees want to be safe and deserve certainty of liability protection. Owners likewise want safety for their customers. But they also want and expect certainty that a lawsuit, in this time of crisis, won’t drive them to bankruptcy. The Governor and California legislature need to keep in mind there are more than 3.9 million small businesses in California, including 1.6 million that are minority owned. Together, they employ 7 million California workers.
Daniel Dodge, Jr. is a lifelong Watsonville resident and PVUSD Board Member. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.