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Shakedown Lawsuits: Americans with Disabilities Act

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This month's article is about the proliferation of shake down lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though the Act was enacted to help all persons gain equal access to businesses open to the public, that noble beginning has degenerated into a cash cow for attorneys who file hundreds of lawsuits a year looking for quick settlements on behalf of their professional plaintiff clients who claim some injury confers them disabled status.

Southern California News Station KABC recently reported how one southern California attorney had filed more than 500 lawsuits for a single client and despite having made many thousands of dollars, claimed the client could not afford the court filing fee. Moreover, after one owner of a chain of small cafes paid $5,000 to settle a claim because a bathroom mirror was two inches too high, the same attorney was lying in wait and promptly sued him again on behalf of different clients for the same violation!

You say, "But my building was built 60 years ago before these requirements existed." Too bad. The ADA applies to new construction and existing buildings. If your building has impediments to access for disabled persons, you could be subject to damages claimed by the disabled person, unless there is a legal exception. Generally, under California law, a disabled person can sue for up to $4000 for each violation and because these professional plaintiffs are often seeking to find violations, the amount of claimed damages can far exceed the amount.

Although the professional plaintiffs may just want quick money to go away, we urge all businesses to consult with experienced consel before they settle any cases of this type. Until there is meaningful ADA reform at the state and federal level, businesses are vulnerable to these types of abusive lawsuits. - R. Bruce Evans, Partner

As always, if you want more information, just give us a call.

- From the Law Offices of Solomon, Saltsman & Jamieson


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