The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was meant to increase access for disabled people, but a few unscrupulous personal injury lawyers and professional plaintiffs have made fortunes by targeting businesses for shake down lawsuits. Oftentimes these lawsuits are filed when access has not been deterred in any way. These lawsuits don’t ask for any accessibility improvements to be made, they ask for money to make the lawsuit go away. Small businesses are often the targets of these shakedown suits, and many quickly settle because of the exorbitant costs of fighting a lawsuit.
Why it Matters
Thousands of businesses, especially small businesses, throughout California have been targeted for ADA lawsuits. These lawsuits give no opportunity to make even a minor repair and are instead intended to shake-down business for a monetary pay off in exchange for not filing a lawsuit. This is a blatant abuse of the law and it is potentially devastating to a small business. When small businesses are targeted by shakedown lawsuits, it can spell economic disaster to the businesses. Owners could be forced to lay off employees, cut their offerings or even go out of business.
Stop the Abuse
In January, 2009, a new law went into effect to help increase access and decrease litigation. Businesses can hire a certified access specialist (CAS) to ensure that they are compliant with ADA law. If a business that has been CAS certified is sued, there will be a stay of litigation and a streamlined court procedure. The law also requires that plaintiffs may recover damages only for a violation they personally encountered or that deterred access on a particular occasion, not for a violation that may exist, but did not restrict access.
While this new law is certainly a step in the right direction, more can be done. For instance, a business could be given an opportunity to fix the problem before a lawsuit can move forward.