• House Takes a Step to Curb ADA Title III Lawsuits by Serial Plaintiffs and Attorneys
  • March 5, 2018 | Authors: Hilary A. Dinkelspiel; Caroline J. Berdzik
  • Law Firms: Goldberg Segalla LLP - New York Office; Goldberg Segalla LLP - New York Office
  • In an effort to curb the onslaught of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Title III lawsuits, which have increased dramatically over the past few years, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 620. The bill requires potential plaintiffs intending to bring lawsuits under Title III (for failure to remove architectural barriers to access from public accommodations) first to provide written notice to owners and operators along with an opportunity to make improvements or repair.

    Specifically, the bill provides that a civil action to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation may not be brought by a potential plaintiff unless:

    1. The plaintiff has provided written notice to the owner or operator sufficient to identify the barrier; and

    2. The owner or operator

    • fails to provide a written response outlining improvements that will be made to the barrier within 60 days; or
    • provides a written response and fails to remove the barrier or make substantial progress in removing the barrier within 120 days.

    In addition, the potential plaintiff’s written notice to the owner and operator must detail the circumstances under which the individual was denied access to a public accommodation, including:

    • The address of the property
    • The sections of the ADA alleged to have been violated
    • Whether the potential plaintiff made a request for assistance in removing the barrier
    • Whether the barrier to access was permanent or temporary

    The bill also charges the Judicial Conference of the United States to develop a program to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in an effort to resolve these claims in an expedited manner.

    While the Senate must pass the bill in order for it to become law, it does represent progress toward deterring serial plaintiffs and attorneys from filing tens and in some cases hundreds of lawsuits alleging relatively minor physical barrier infractions solely to negotiate a quick settlement. On the other hand, opponents to the bill believe it may stifle and discourage legitimate ADA Title III lawsuits, as attorneys will be less inclined to pursue these actions if an owner or operator can remedy violations pre-suit, which would eliminate the chance of a fee award. This makes sense — if fee awards are the ultimate goal of the ADA Title III. If the goal is the removal of barriers to access, then H.R. 620 is evidently a step in the right direction.