California Supreme Court LOVES litigation

The California Supreme Court continued its streak of pro-litigation decisions today. What am I talking about? The recent "Tobacco Cases," - expanding the availability of unfair business practice class actions, the anti-arbitration decisions, the pro-class action certification opinions, the Court's common theme lately seems to be - lawsuits good! Too bad the courts are struggling for funds to hear all these cases, there are few disincentives to bring frivolous litigation, and businesses already on shaky financial ground can't afford to be in court. OK, down off the soapbox.

Anyway, in this most recent installment, the California high court considered certified questions from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, including whether proof of intentional discrimination is a required element of claims brought under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The Unruh Act is the civil rights law that protects the public from discrimination in places of public accommodation. It's the principal state law used in disability access cases. Money damages are available for violations, making the Unruh Act more interesting than laws permitting only injunctions.

This is not an employment law case per se. But many employers operate businesses that are subject to the Unruh Act (retail, restaurants hospitals, etc.) . So, I thought I would mention this case.

The Unruh Act says that a violation of Title III of the ADA (prohibiting discriminating in public accommodations by failure to make facilities accessible) is also a violation of the Unruh Act. The Court decided that because the ADA does not require intentional discrimination in access cases, neither did the Unruh Act. (The rest of the Unruh Act, prohibiting discrimination on a variety of bases, does require intentional discrimination, though, which is why the Supreme Court had to decide the case).

So, disability access litigation is alive and well! The case is Munson v. Del Taco, and the opinion is here.