As Milpitas residents continue to shelter in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and eventually prepare for the safe reopening of our local economy, let us not forget the challenges that exist for our local small business owners, and that is protection against a wave of COVID-19 lawsuits aimed at shaking down mom and pop businesses here in Milpitas and our surrounding communities.
With the State Legislature reconvening, it is an opportune time to place the spotlight on this critical issue and to call on the legislature and Governor to support small business and protect them from abusive lawsuits that shakedown our local businesses.
Milpitas business owners are already the target of abusive lawsuits. Some in the form of ADA complaints, others related to the abuse of Prop 65. In most of these cases, no one is harmed, but companies, small and large, pay thousands of dollars because of minor technical violations that the small business owner could have cured. In some cases, they are left with no other choice but to close their doors permanently.
Now, Milpitas businesses could face COVID-19 related lawsuits while in this very uncertain COVID-19 climate. They are already trying to create victimless lawsuits, where people sue because they think they may have been exposed to COVID-19, even when they do not become infected.
Business owners want to be safe and deserve certainty of protection. Owners likewise want safety for their employees and customers. But they also want and need certainty that a lawsuit, in this time of crisis, won’t drive them to bankruptcy. There are more than 3.9 million small businesses in California; 1.6 million are minority owned. Together, they employ 7 million California workers.
Unwarranted lawsuits stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, ADA abuse and the Private Attorneys General Act will financially ruin small businesses in Milpitas and throughout California. And the hope of providing for their families and paying their rent or mortgages during and after this pandemic will be buried forever unless our leaders take a stand for those that employ so many.
Written by Anthony Phan, who is a Milpitas City Councilmember.