House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a hearing today on the ACCESS (ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to
Stores and Services) Act, which aims to protect small businesses from the
widespread abuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert
(R-CA), who is sponsoring the bill, will testify before the committee in support
of the bill he says will help prevent plaintiffs’ lawyers from “trying to
enrich themselves on the backs of the disabled.”
The ACCESS Act, also
known as H.R 241, would require an aggrieved person notify a business of an
ADA violation in writing, and give the business owner 60 days to provide the
aggrieved individual a detailed description of improvements to remedy the
violation. Then, the owner would have 120 days to remove the infraction.
Failure to meet these conditions would be grounds to further the lawsuit.
Orlick, Esq. of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP wrote an article on ADA lawsuit abuse, pointing
out that minority entrepreneurs are often the target of such
“Indeed, lawyers from Florida and other states have joined forces with
local attorneys to file scores of ADA lawsuits against small businesses, many
of which are owned by minority entrepreneurs,” Orlick wrote.
In 2014, NBC Bay Area reported that 3303 ADA lawsuits had been
filed in Florida since 2005.
lawsuits have become prevalent particularly in South Florida. More than 1 in
every 5 ADA complaints brought to courts across the country were filed in the
Southern District of Florida in 2013, making many local business owners fearful
of being targeted.
The ADA was enacted in
1990 by Congress, and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities
in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and
attorneys stand to gain the most from ADA lawsuits because the act does not provide
damages, and was designed to give citizens incentive to bring the lawsuits by
allowing them to recover their attorney’s fees and court fees.
Calvert told the Florida Record that as a property owner
himself, he has had to deal with complaints from people who find minor
discrepancy in a building or in following the regulations, and instead of being
given time to correct the infraction, owners get slapped with lawsuits and
“lawyers get rich.”
“We all want to
have access (for) the disabled, we just don’t want to make this an excuse for
lawyers to sue small business owners,” he said. “Nobody is objecting to making
sure that we have access for the disabled.”
Calvert said some of the
infractions are very minor, like not having a sign in the right location or
neglecting to paint a line in the right way.
Instead of rushing to
file lawsuits, Calvert said business owners should be given an opportunity to
fix infractions and comply with the law.
McKinney, director of communications for the American Tort Reform Association,
told the Florida Record that the
association is in full support of the bill.
realistically, being an election year and with the stranglehold that the trial
bar has on Senate Democrats generally, one can’t be particularly optimistic
about the bill," McKinney said. "But certainly it is needed; the congressman is to be
said small businesses around the country are supportive of the bill because ADA
lawsuits “are spreading like kudzu all around the country now.”
Calvert said the issue
is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but just a common-sense solution to a
“This is supposed to
help people that are disabled, not help some attorney get his kids through
college,” he said
But he’s expecting
resistance from those “trying to enrich themselves on the backs of the
“I don’t think those
guys really give a hoot about the disabled; they care about their own bank
accounts,” he said.
Calvert has never had a
complaint from disabled groups about being given a chance to fix infractions.
In fact, people with disabilities want to get the problem fixed to make sure
they get access, he said.
the kind of thing that is common-sense stuff, and I think we need to get this
passed as soon as possible," he said.