Newsline) – Today, U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), who is sponsoring the ACCESS
(ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services) Act, is
testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitution and
Civil Justice today on behalf of the bill he says will help stop plaintiffs’ lawyers
from “trying to enrich themselves on the backs of the disabled.”
The ACCESS Act, also
known as H.R 241, would require an aggrieved person to notify a business of an
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violation in writing, and give the
business owner 60 days to provide the aggrieved individual a detailed description
of improvements to remedy the violation. Then, the owner would have 120 days to
remove the infraction. Failure to meet these conditions would be grounds to
further the lawsuit.
The ADA was enacted in
1990 by Congress, and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities
in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and
Calvert told Legal Newsline that as a property owner
himself, he has had to deal with complaints from people who find minor
discrepancy in a building or in following the regulations, and instead of being
given time to correct the infraction, owners get slapped with lawsuits and
“lawyers get rich.”
“We all want to
have access (for) the disabled, we just don’t want to make this an excuse for
lawyers to sue small business owners,” he said. “Nobody is objecting to making
sure that we have access for the disabled.”
Calvert said some of the
infractions are very minor, like not having a sign in the right location or
neglecting to paint a line in the right way.
Instead of rushing to
file lawsuits, Calvert said business owners should be given an opportunity to
fix infractions and comply with the law.
After reviewing more
than 10,000 federal ADA lawsuits filed since 2005, NBC Bay Area reported
in 2014 that an astounding 7,188 ADA lawsuits had been filed in California –
more than the lawsuits filed in Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and New
to the California Commission on Disability Access’ 2015 Annual Report to the California State Legislature, there
were 2,323 federal and state ADA complaints submitted to the commission in
2015. This number does not include demand letters. Forty percent of the
complaints were filed by two law firms, 70 percent of the complaints were filed
by six law firms.
69 percent of plaintiffs involved in construction-related accessibility
complaints filed 10 or more complaints in 2015 alone.
lawmakers took action to curtail the rampant lawsuit abuse.
On May 12,
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation aiming to protecting small businesses from
costly lawsuits over technical ADA violations.
Bill 269, sponsored by Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside), gives businesses 15 days
to fix minor ADA violations once a complaint or written notification has been
received. The violations covered by the law include faded or damaged paint in
California is considered ground zero for ADA lawsuits, small businesses around
the country with modest budgets have also taken a financial hit.
In Florida, 3,303 ADA lawsuits had been filed during that same time period; 1,322 in New
York; 677 in Pennsylvania; and 651 in Texas.
“Small businesses are
the life-blood of our communities,” U.S. Rep.
Ted Poe (R-Texas) wrote in an editorial
last year. “The vast majority of them strive to
serve their customers to the best of their ability – relying on the ADA as
another tool to help ensure that customers with disabilities can enjoy the
services that they provide. However, despite their best attempts, certain
attorneys and their pool of serial plaintiffs look for minor, easily
correctable ADA infractions so they can file a lawsuit and make some cash.”
Operating under modest
budgets, Poe said many small businesses take a financial hit and often feel
backed into a corner.
“They have few choices: settle, pay fees that
match those of lengthy and expensive litigation, or spend time and
money to go through the legal process,” he said.
According to a 2014 Manhattan
trial lawyers “have found ways to exploit legal rules in disability statutes to
their personal benefit, fleecing taxpayers and business owners alike in the
“Yearly ADA-related payouts paid
through employment-discrimination claims filed with the federal Equal Employment
Opportunities Commission (EEOC) exceed $100 million and have grown at an
annualized rate of more than 12 percent over the last seven years, a period
when overall tort-litigation costs in the U.S. have fallen,” the report stated.
“These payouts, moreover, understate the true cost of such litigation, which
almost always settles, given that the expected expense of defending against an
ADA lawsuit to the employer tops $250,000.”
In New Orleans, the Bizer Law Firm has become notorious
for filing a large number of ADA lawsuits in recent years.
Attorneys at the firm have reportedly filed more than 100
lawsuits on behalf of a small group of serial plaintiffs over the last five years,
one of whom was involved in more than a dozen other ADA lawsuits against local
The law firm is
currently representing three men suing the city of New Orleans, the Regional
Transit Authority (RTA), and the RTA's private manager, Transdev, claiming lack
of access to the St. Charles Streetcar, which the plaintiffs’ assert violates
the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
In 2015, 94 ADA Title III
lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
Illinois. Of those, 77 were filed by only eight plaintiffs, each represented by
the same legal counsel.
But now a recent wave of lawsuits that
aren’t limited to how ADA compliant a business’ physical location is have
become prevalent throughout the county, particularly in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
coming forward in droves with lawsuits
against companies claiming the companies’ websites fail to provide
accommodations for people with disabilities. Many of the complaints have been
filed against national corporations such as the NBA, Brooks Brothers, Toys “R” Us
Since ADA was enacted when the
Internet was in its infancy, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how ADA
rules apply to websites, and how companies with websites can become compliant
McKinney, director of communications for the American Tort Reform Association,
told the Legal Newsline that the
association is in full support of Calvert’s bill.
realistically, being an election year and with the stranglehold that the trial
bar has on Senate Democrats generally, one can’t be particularly optimistic
about the bill," he said. "But certainly it is needed; the congressman is to be
said small businesses around the country are supportive of the bill because ADA
lawsuits “are spreading like kudzu all around the country now.”
Calvert said the issue
is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but just a common-sense solution to a
“This is supposed to
help people that are disabled, not help some attorney get his kids through
college,” he said
But he’s expecting
resistance from those “trying to enrich themselves on the backs of the
“I don’t think those
guys really give a hoot about the disabled; they care about their own bank
accounts,” he said.
Calvert has never had a
complaint from disabled groups about being given a chance to fix infractions.
In fact, people with disabilities want to get the problem fixed to make sure
they get access, he said.
“This is the kind of
thing that is common-sense stuff, and I think we need to get this passed as
soon as possible,” he said.