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Predatory Lawsuits only hurt ADA Compliance

It’s been 27 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law; businesses should be in compliance with rules that ensure disabled individuals can access buildings, restrooms and services.

But we are dismayed that those businesses not in compliance, however slightly, are being sued without notice or chance to first remedy deficiencies. As reporting from The Denver Post’s David Migoya shows, those suits are not just seeking remedy of the problem for plaintiffs, but are also looking for an out-of-court settlement that includes cash for the plaintiff.

Shame on those exploiting this important law for personal gain.

Colorado’s executive director of the state disabilities council would like us to believe that these lawsuits aren’t predatory, but are in fact “the only way to get things done.”

That’s hard to believe.

If the true motive of the 64 lawsuits filed by Mellisa Umphenour of Arvada were to remedy the issue of access, then why ask businesses like Original Pizza in Broomfield to first pay $3,000 to settle the matter out of court? Seems to us that amount of money could go a long way toward helping the small business put protective covers on exposed pipes beneath the sink and ensuring the handicap parking they have complies completely with the requirements in the ADA.

It does take time and effort for Umphenour and her attorney to find these violations and file suit. And certainly compliance with the ADA is not just nice, it’s critical for the disabled community. But this tactic of mass filing of lawsuits seems to do more harm than good.

Migoya found another 71 lawsuits filed last year by Santiago Abreu, a disabled Floridian who often travels to Colorado. Most of those cases were settled out of court for undisclosed terms.

And then, on Feb. 15, almost two dozen ADA compliance lawsuits were filed by Terrell Frederick.

Both Frederick and Umphenour got approval from a judge to not pay filing fees because of their income level.

Colorado is not unique in these kinds of “drive-by lawsuits” driven by both attorneys and plaintiffs looking to make a profit.

For several years members of Congress from California and Texas have filed bills that would amend the ADA to require notice and a cure periodbefore a private lawsuit can be filed. Such a change to the law will undoubtedly make the process slower and more burdensome on those who are truly looking to make businesses more accessible to the disabled.

It’s a shame that some have given the ADA such a bad name. Predatory suits will make it more difficult for those genuinely looking to improve accessibility to work hand in hand with the business community.

We pressed for a more proactive approach to enforcing ADA parking requirements in Denver just last year. There’s no doubt a lack of adequate parking, sidewalks and ramps can close down entire segments of the city to individuals. That’s unacceptable.

But there’s a vast difference between suing a bad actor who refuses to comply with the law, or feigns compliance only to revert back, and suing a small business that may not even realize it’s out of compliance.

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Contact Us At: arcor-inc.com SD: 858-481-4494 LA: 310-431-9389 North California: 650-468-0307

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