• Watch Out For Drive By Lawsuits
  • September 29, 2003 | Author: Douglas M. Kennedy
  • Law Firm: Roetzel & Andress A Legal Professional Association - Columbus Office
  • Under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), all business owners are required to make sure that any areas that are open to the general public provide adequate access to the disabled. Unfortunately, although the law has been in effect since 1990, many business owners have been slow to respond to these requirements. In addition, the alterations required under the legislation can be expensive and can cause disruptions in business during construction. The Act also provides that a private citizen can bring a civil action against a business for any violation. An individual also does not have to prove that they have suffered any loss or damage as a result of the violation. Of course, that means that they will not be able to recover any damages for themselves if a lawsuit is filed. The statute, however, does allow them to recover their attorneys' fees. Because of the opportunity to recover fees, several firms in California and Florida have begun to initiate a number of these lawsuits against retail businesses. The firms will hire a disabled person and ask them to visit several businesses in a certain area to see if they are in compliance with the public accommodation requirements. If they are not, a lawsuit is then filed in the name of the disabled individual. The obvious purpose of the lawsuit, however, is not to force the business to comply with the ADA, but instead to merely recover attorneys' fees. In Tampa, Florida over 150 of these lawsuits have been filed in the last year against local businesses. If the businesses, in fact, have not complied with the ADA, then there is little they can do to defend themselves. Also, if they try to defend the actions, all they end up doing is driving up the legal fees recovered by the suing law firms. They also end up paying the expenses of updating their facility to comply with the legislation. So be on the lookout for this type of new gangster law. Rumor has it that these firms are exploring similar tactics in numerous other states throughout the country. The bottom line is: make sure you are in compliance with the ADA's public accommodation rules and regulations or you also could be subject to a "drive by lawsuit."