Guest Post by Tom Scott, National Spokesperson, Sick of Lawsuits
Recently, there has been a flood of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits across the country. The problem began in California, where trial lawyers have focused on suing minority business owners. Just this past week, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CACALA) held a press conference in Fresno, California where it documented that 180 small businesses had been sued on ADA violations, and nearly 80% of these suits were against minority owned businesses.
Slowly but surely, these shakedown lawsuits have become a national problem. In Louisiana, a wheelchair user filed three federal lawsuits against three major retailers claiming they do not follow guidelines set out in the federal ADA. Now, these suits may sound legitimate. But, this filer is a serial filer. This serial filer of ADA litigation has brought 19 suits thus far, all of which are nearly identical, and most have been settled for undisclosed amounts of money.
In Pennsylvania, a woman has filed seven class action lawsuits against various companies selling PA car insurance claiming they have violated the ADA. Some of the lawsuits she filed named Boston Market Corporation, CVS Carmark Corporation and Starbucks as violators of the ADA. I am pretty sure these businesses are all very conscientious of the ADA when they go into a shopping center.
In South Florida, an article earlier this year in the Sun Sentinel noted that South Florida rules the nation in federal lawsuits that accuse businesses of failing to provide easy access to the disabled. More than one in five ADA claims filed in 2013 originated in the Southern District of Florida.
The article went on to say that the ADA has become a cottage industry for nuisance lawsuits in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami Dade counties. A handful of repeat plaintiffs, aided by a small gang of law firms, wield the well-intentioned ADA like some kind of blackjack, shaking down local businesses to generate big bucks in legal fees. Does this sound familiar?
CACALA for years has been trying to bring reform to this well intentioned federal act. CACALA and Sick of Lawsuits support full access and support the ADA. What we do not support is a small group of greedy trial lawyers taking advantage of loopholes in the law. This is not about access, it is about money.
None of these lawyers ever return to the business they sued to see if they have become compliant. Believe me – most of these lawsuits are settled before they ever see the light of day.
Everyone agrees that the ADA is a good law. However, the reality is that a huge majority of all businesses in the United States are still not accessible. And the public sector is not doing a very good job either. So do we just keep suing businesses out of business or do we try and resolve this through state and federal legislation?
By giving businesses and the public sector 120 days to comply with the ADA, we would resolve most of these cases.
I hope in the New Year that the Senate, Congress and state legislatures will tackle this problem. The disabled are owed it and so are small business owners. It is time to fix the problem!