"Drive By" Lawsuits…. what?

You might think we’re listening to too much Gangsta’s Paradise when in reality, we’re talking about a current legal trend – ADA “Drive By” Lawsuits. To know what we’re talking about, you must first understand a little bit about ADA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.

Now, Title III of the ADA, prohibits persons who own, lease, lease to, or operate places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Further, Title III requires owners who construct or alter places of public accommodation or commercial facilities to make those facilities readily accessible to individuals with disabilities.

But, who does it apply to you ask? Title III’s public accommodations provision applies to any nonprofit group or private place of business that is open to the public for the sale or lease of goods or services. The ADA lists 12 general categories of public accommodation including places of lodging, places serving food or drink, places of exhibition and/or entertainment, places of public gathering, sales or rental establishments, service establishments, stations used for specified public transportation, places of public display or collection, places of recreation, places of education, social service center establishments, and places of exercise or recreation.

Entities such as restaurants, doctor’s offices, day care centers, hotels, grocery stores, gas stations, movie theaters, and museums are all considered public accommodations. Private clubs and religious organizations are the only private entities explicitly exempted from the requirements of Title III.

Why should you concern yourself with this? Well, as stated previously, ADA “drive by” lawsuits are on the rise. As a result, business owners should take a hard look at their facilities with a focus on ADA compliance. A “drive by” lawsuit typically involve a litigious, disabled plaintiff teaming up with an attorney to drive by places of business seeking out ADA violations. Then, these lawyers file suits on behalf of the disabled plaintiff and requests damages for each violation they can identify without ever informing the targeted establishment of any ADA violations. These lawyers tend to target small businesses because small businesses are likely to settle quickly, meaning quick money for them.

Businesses should be aware that Title III of the ADA sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of facilities, and requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense. Complying with these requirements can protect you and your business from “drive-by” lawsuits.

Overall, if you are thinking of buying a business, make sure to inspect the premises for any ADA violations. Otherwise, you will be stuck buying the business as-is and may be subject to liability. Also, if you do happen to get a drive-by lawsuit, hire an attorney as soon as possible.

If you have any further questions on the matter, we’re more than happy to help and can be contacted directly via phone or email. (786) 837-6787 or info@epgdlaw.com

*Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be legal advise. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*