The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to improve access and equality for disabled Americans. However, the law’s integrity is being compromised by an onslaught of abusive “drive-by” lawsuits against small businesses for minor and correctable infractions/violations aimed at extracting settlements consisting mostly of attorneys’ fees.
The number of ADA Title III lawsuits – which involve places of public accommodation – has surged in recent years. In many cases, plaintiffs will file dozens, even hundreds, of cases across a geographic area. Often lacking the resources to contest the lawsuits, thousands of businesses, including restaurants, are left paying significant legal fees.
The ADA Education and Reform Act (introduced as H.R. 3765/S. 3446 in the 114th Congress) recognizes that alleged ADA access violations could be addressed more effectively with some narrow reforms. This legislation protects the rights of people with disabilities to file lawsuits and ensures they have full and proper access to businesses open to the public. But it restores the necessary balance to Title III litigation through a “notice and cure” provision. This would create a temporary pause in litigation for up to 120 days to allow property owners to correct identified barriers to access.
This simple, common-sense approach would allow businesses to identify and correct alleged ADA violations before engaging in an unnecessary, lengthy, costly settlement process. By removing current incentives that encourage attorneys to file lawsuits mainly to collect legal fees, the measure restores the goal of the ADA: compliance and improved access.
This bipartisan and narrowly tailored legislation will ensure that the intent of Title III of the ADA is protected while simultaneously preventing well-meaning business owners from being victimized by abusive lawsuits.