PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) -- Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has been given the green light by the Maricopa County Superior Court to intervene in a collection of state-level Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaints he labeled as systemic abuse of the judicial system.
Since the start of 2015, 1,624 of these cases were filed in state courts, nearly three times the 584 complaints filed in Arizona federal courts. The attorney general, apparently alarmed by this deluge of cases, filed a motion requesting the authority to intervene in these cases that was granted Sept. 8, as well as a motion to consolidate 1,222 cases filed mostly by Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID, formerly Advocates for American Disabled Individuals or AADI).
“The sheer volume of cases brought by this one organization would seem to suggest that there may be questionable motives at work,” Seyfarth Shaw’s Title III team leader Minh Vu told Legal Newsline.
Vu cautioned, however, that it would be hard to know if the cases had merit without examining the facts of each individual case.
The flurry of cases initially targeted businesses in Scottsdale but eventually focused primarily on businesses in Mesa. The Mesa Chamber of Commerce said the suits were an effort to make money through out-of-court settlements rather than protect the interests of the disabled.
Further, the chamber argued that business owners have no objection toward the ADA and would gladly have complied if given the opportunity.
“The attorney general certainly has an interest in how the Arizona law is interpreted,” Vu said. “The intervention should send a message to other plaintiffs attorneys that they should exercise more restraint in the number of access lawsuits they file in a single jurisdiction.”
However, AID’s attorney, John D. Wilenchik, has argued that the Attorney General’s Office for decades has shown little or no interest in enforcing the ADA, and businesses have a general practice of only becoming compliant if sued, which places the burden of ensuring compliance on the disabled.
Wilenchik went so far as to say that almost no business in Arizona is actually and fully compliant with ADA regulations.
Although the intervention and the surge in suits both are unprecedented, Vu connected them both to larger national trends, unique only in how they have been expressed in Arizona.
“I’m not aware of any instance when a plaintiff has brought this many cases under a state law,” Vu said. “There is no question that the surge in cases in Arizona is consistent with the nationwide increase of disability access litigation.
"However, it is unique because the cases are being brought in state court under state law. Most lawsuits are brought under Title III of the ADA, which is a federal law.”
As of this reporting, Brnovich has not responded to requests for comment.