Chicago small businesses targeted by ADA lawyers feel cost of compliance

By Stephanie N. Grimoldby | Apr 12, 2016

Photo provided by LaSalle Flowers

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Whether it’s the cost of compliance - in the form of handicapped restrooms, ramps, elevators or even simple signage – or the cost of a trial, the dollars can add up quickly for small businesses facing accessibility lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Even if a defendant settles - as did Margot Sersen, owner of Chicago’s LaSalle Flowers, last year - it can still cost thousands.

Sersen’s shop – a building typical of its River North neighborhood – was built in the 19th century, with a front entrance abutting the public sidewalk, leaving no room for a permanent ramp.

When Sersen received a letter from lawyer John L. Steele, of the Accessibility Law Group, asserting that his client, Chicago resident Mary Mizerk, couldn’t maneuver her wheelchair up the five-inch stoop, she thought she would be safely “grandfathered in” from any litigation.

But Sersen soon learned the ADA does not acknowledge such a defense. Any physical barrier, even those created prior to the ADA’s adoption, can be cause for discrimination.

After several months of back-and-forth with Steele, Sersen finally settled, paying $2,500, plus the cost of a removable aluminum ramp, which was approximately $150, she said.

“[Steele] wanted $7,500,” Sersen said. “I was determined not to give him anything, but after six months, [my lawyer and insurance company] said it was in my best interests to give him the $2,500. They… said it’s going to cost us a lot more if we continue fighting with that guy.”

The amount was too much in Sersen’s mind, who said she was shocked to receive the lawsuit and still doesn’t believe she discriminated against any customers.

But it’s on the low end of what a business could pay.

To read the entire article, visit The Cook County Record.

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