Working together to stop ADA drive-by lawsuits

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Encouraging bipartisan support and the pursuit of positive change for small businesses.
by PETER CLERKIN

These days, it seems like politicians cannot agree about anything. That’s because it’s convenient for the media to use a gridlock narrative as shorthand for the contrarian and obstinate behavior that defines how our elected representatives address a few big issues. However, a different, more nuanced picture emerges when one takes a closer look at the actual lawmaking process – the pursuit of positive change. Common Ground profiles two members of opposing parties who are working together to advance issues important to hoteliers.

THE ISSUE

Stopping ADA Drive-by Lawsuits

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the nation’s landmark civil rights laws that expanded accessibility for our fellow citizens with disabilities. Unfortunately, unscrupulous attorneys and serial plaintiffs use vague language to allege violations under Title III and file predatory lawsuits against small businesses. Often, the damages or settlement sought would be less than the cost of litigating the charge – these cases are about profit, not expanding physical access.

COMMON GROUND

In January 2017, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, and Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) signed on as an original cosponsor of the bill. The bill creates a notice and cure period where owners and operators of businesses and the constituencies empowered by the ADA can work together to expand accessibility and take corrective and constructive action if issues of physical access arise. By allowing small business owners the time and opportunity to take specific corrective action before litigation is pursued, money is spent on improving access rather than paying legal costs. This will go a long way to discourage the type of ADA drive-by lawsuits that have plagued small business owners over the years. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support but currently lacks a sponsor in the Senate.

Rep. Ted Poe (R)

District: TX-2 (Kingwood, Harris County)

First Elected: 2004

Committees: Foreign Affairs, Judiciary

“The Americans with Disability Act is a long-standing law that was intended to make business more accessible to the disabled. This common-sense legislation simply provides a notice and cure period, allowing businesses the opportunity to understand and fix an alleged violation. If a violation is not fixed within 120 days, a plaintiff retains their right to sue. This legislation restores the purpose of the ADA: to provide access and accommodation to disabled Americans, not to fatten the wallets of unscrupulous attorneys. I urge the Senate to quickly take up this legislation and put an end to unscrupulous attorney’s abuse of the ADA.”

Rep. Scott Peters (D)

District: TX-28 (San Diego, Poway, La Jolla)

First Elected: 2012

Committees: Veterans’ Affairs, Energy and Commerce

“The Americans with Disabilities Act is critical to protecting every American’s right to accessing public and private spaces. That’s why we must stop bad actors who are abusing this landmark civil rights law for their own personal financial gain and standing in the way of real improvements to access. This bipartisan bill allows business owners to spend their money to fix problems and improve accessibility, rather than paying off lawyers to settle cookie cutter lawsuits. Notice and cure provisions like the ones in this bill are common prerequisites for private right of action lawsuits, including in federal civil rights laws. It makes sense to give small business owners a chance to fix problems before they are dragged into court. I am open to other solutions that simultaneously eliminate this abuse and safeguard access. However, doing nothing is not the right answer.” ■

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