Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a landmark paradigm of U.S. civil rights legislation, modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to bar discrimination against and ensure opportunities for people with disabilities. While the goals of this law are unquestionably laudable, however, its implementation in practice has produced mixed results. While a number of important strides have been made, some have noted that the ADA has not had much success in expanding hiring goals , while others denounce the misapplication of the law for monetary gain by unscrupulous operators.
For about the past year and a half, it has seemed to me as though there has been a marked increase in the number of ADA lawsuits brought in Santa Clara County. Several of my clients who own commercial real estate locally have been sued for violations of the ADA at their properties during this period of time. In addition, I have been told by several of my colleagues that they have been experiencing the same rise in litigation. In view of this experience, I am curious to find out if my perception of this situation is just a hiccup in the data based on my small sample size, an existing circumstance that simply escaped my attention, or some larger happening.
I would like to pose this question to those of my readers who are involved with commercial real estate access matters: What have been your recent experiences with ADA litigation? If you’re interested in telling me about your own encounters with these matters, please post them in the comments below this article. If there are enough responses from which to draw a meaningful conclusion, I will report back with the results.
Nora Rousso says
The amount of ADA “access” related lawsuits is indeed climbing. I am representing the owner of a small cafe in Saratoga, as well as the owner of the real property in an access case filed by Scott Johnson and the “Center for Disability Access” located in Southern California. Mr. Johnson is a “serial litigator.” The “violations” listed in the complaint were all minor and fixed within one month of the complaint. The complaint alleges 11 separate visits during which the plaintiff was “denied access” and yet his attorneys could only produce two receipts, one of which was undated. No demand letter was sent before the complaint was filed. Plaintiff wants $4,000 per alleged visit for “statutory minimum penalties” for the alleged “injunctive relief” sought. They basically try to extort as much money as possible even though they have no intention of litigating the case, as there is nothing to litigate. They file in federal court because the procedures available in California to deal with these cases expeditiously and inexpensively are not available in federal court. I am happy to talk about this with you in detail if you like.
Daniel G. says
Thanks for your response, Nora. This is what I’ve been seeing.
Amy Carlson says
Check out HR 620. It was an attempt by the House to fix the ADA. Instead, the media went ballistic and made it sound like Congress was “gutting” the ADA. Rachel Maddow said ice water ran through their veins. If you read it, there’s nothing of the sort.
I defended so many of those cases and there’s no fighting them if the owner is paying out of their own pocket. It’s horrifically expensive. I could go on and on about the lack of any cooperation by anyone and the media’s ignorance.
Daniel G. says
Thanks for your response, Amy. In your view, is this a recent or more longstanding phenomenon?
HR 620, which proposed to amend the ADA by promoting access compliance through education, clarifying requirements for demand letters, providing a notice and cure period before the commencement of a lawsuit, and developing an alternative dispute resolution program for access matters, was introduced in January 2017 and passed the House in February 2018. A prior version was introduced in 2016. Here’s a link to information on the bill:
I’m not an attorney but a few years ago someone was doing that in south Santa Clara county. San Martin Presbyterian church is 120 years old and we were made to do several,things to comply with ADA as well as several,other businesses in the area. The guy wasn’t from here and wasn’t handicapped I don’t think.linda
Daniel G. says
Thanks, Linda. Do you recall about when that was?