WASHINGTON -- Congressman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., will be testifying before the House
Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice
today in support of a new bill he introduced earlier this year.
seeks to protect small businesses from the widespread abuse of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) by plaintiffs’ lawyers Calvert says are “trying to
enrich themselves on the backs of the disabled.”
(ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services) Act, also known as
H.R 241, would require an aggrieved person to notify a business of an 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.
California is considered ground zero for ADA lawsuits, small businesses around
the country with modest budgets have taken a financial hit.
cases of this type of lawsuit abuse in Pennsylvania,” Gene Barr, President and
CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, told the Pennsylvania Record. “We need to put reforms
in place to ensure that the ADA is protecting those individuals it was truly
intended to and is not used as another avenue by plaintiff attorneys to go
after deep pockets for monetary gain.”
In 2014, NBC Bay Area reported
that 677 ADA lawsuits had been filed in Pennsylvania since 2005.
Calvert, who is sponsoring
the bill, told the Pennsylvania Record 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.”
The ADA was enacted in
1990 by Congress, and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities
in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and
Iannacone, Esquire of Rhoads & Sinon LLP wrote an article on
ADA lawsuit abuse stating that since the enactment of ADA, plaintiffs’
attorneys have taken advantage of the attorney’s fee provision and teamed up
with disabled individuals to bring claims of ADA violations.
lawsuits rarely go to trial and often end with businesses spending substantial
money in the form of renovations to their establishments and also attorneys’
fees—both their own attorneys’ fees and the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees,” he
wrote. “The increase in these lawsuits is the result of plaintiffs’ attorneys
who have taken advantage of the many misconceptions businesses have when it
comes to the ADA, along with the fact that the ADA permits plaintiffs to
recover their attorneys’ fees.”
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.
McKinney, director of communications for the American Tort Reform Association,
told the Pennsylvania Record that the
association is in full support of the 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. 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.”
said the issue is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but just a common sense
solution to a problem.
supposed to help people that are disabled, not help some attorney get his kids
through college,” he said
expecting resistance from those “trying to enrich themselves on the backs of
think those guys really give a hoot about the disabled, they care about their
own bank accounts,” he said.
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.
the kind of thing that is common sense stuff, and I think we need to get this
passed as soon as possible, he said.