The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation (H.R. 620) to reform the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) to curb unscrupulous lawsuits alleging minor and easily correctable impediments to building access.
The House of Representatives on Feb. 14 passed legislation ( H.R. 620 ) to reform the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) to curb unscrupulous lawsuits alleging minor and easily correctable impediments to building access.
Approved by a 225-192 vote, The ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620), attracted 12 Democratic votes to address the rise in so-called “drive-by” lawsuits where disabled individuals never actually seek access to properties that are allegedly ADA non-compliant. A 60 Minutes segment in 2017 reported on lawyers filing ADA complaints simply after driving by a business or reviewing properties online via Google Earth. Many business owners subjected to such “drive-by” ADA claims have found it less costly to settle complaints and avoid the litigation process. (International Council of Shopping Centers, ADA Lawsuit Reform)
Under H.R. 620, individuals intent on suing hotels, restaurants or other businesses over an ADA violation must first give the business 60 days to address specific complaints, detailed in an initial written notice, about physical barriers that prevent access or otherwise discriminate against disabled customers. Before a law suit can be filed, another 60 days must be allowed for the business to make “substantial progress” toward remedying the problem. (Washington Post and BNA, Feb. 15)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) noted, “All this bill does is require those unscrupulous trial lawyers to do what ethical lawyers already do: give fair notice of a violation before thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees are racked up against a small business, diverting money from accessibility where it belongs,” Goodlatte said. (The Hill, Feb. 15, 2018)
Tom McGee, president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), applauded policymakers for “ensuring that the landmark [ADA] continues to protect disabled people from discrimination in their everyday life – from employment to accessing public places. The retail real estate industry is fully committed to the collective goals of more accessibility and ensuring fair compliance with this important law,” he said. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept 8, 2017)
ICSC and other real estate groups intend to pursue a strategy to pass ADA litigation reform in the Senate in the coming months.