California Business Lawyer & Corporate Lawyer, Inc. has seen a recent uptick in what we refer to as predatory ADA lawsuits. These are not genuine ADA lawsuits; they are lawsuits that are filed in order to make a profit, not to right an ADA violation.
“ADA lawsuit settlements are rather lucrative, so a number of disabled people have become” serial plaintiffs, “said Doug Wade, a Los Angeles small business lawyer at the Nakase Wade law firm. The case often does not go to court, as businesses are keen to settle the case early. Therefore, these serial plaintiffs make a large profit for almost no work. Some of the serial plaintiffs we have seen file hundreds of these predatory lawsuits.
An ADA lawsuit can seriously harm a small business in the following ways:
● Negative press for not being accessible
● Large settlement and legal fees that can harm a business with poor cash flow
● Large costs to remedy the issue at the heart of the lawsuit
But, there is no need to worry, there are ways to prevent ADA lawsuits, and there are ways to defend against ADA lawsuits. Our ADA attorneys have provided the following tips for small business owners who are concerned about ADA lawsuits.
How to prevent an ADA Lawsuit
Being proactive in ensuring your business premises are compliant with ADA requirements for accessibility in public spaces is the best way to protect against ADA lawsuits. To do this, follow these X steps:
1. Hire an ADA surveyor – Ask them to do a survey of your premises to look for how your business can improve its accessibility. The surveyor must have ADA qualifications; not all surveyors will be able to help.
2. Create an ADA compliance plan – This is a thorough strategy designed to get your premises compliant with ADA regulations. It contains quotes from local contractors and a prioritized schedule. You should book in dates for when you intend to complete the work. Often having a compliance plan in place can help you defend against a lawsuit.
3. Talk to an ADA lawyer – They can help you prioritize which work you should conduct first. They may also be able to help you rule out work that does not need to be completed at all.
Do I need to make huge changes to be ADA compliant?
Not necessarily. “Title III of the ADA only requires reasonable accommodations that are accomplished without too much difficulty or expense. While this wording is quite vague, a lawyer will be able to help you decide which changes may not need to be made, ”according to the Nakase Law Firm’s Los Angeles employment attorney. They will be able to put evidence in place to defend this decision if you face a lawsuit.
You may not need to make changes if:
● The building is older than the effective date of ADA laws
● The building is not a public space
● The changes will be too costly
● The changes will change the nature of your products or services
● The changes will cause a threat to the health or safety of others
● The changes would cause the business to close or other burdens
How to defend your business against an ADA lawsuit?
There is no need to panic when you receive a notice of an ADA lawsuit; there are a number of ways to defend yourself. Firstly, make sure you consult with a Los Angeles civil litigation lawyer so they can help you choose the most effective defense for your circumstances.
Dispute the plaintiff’s standing
The plaintiff filing the lawsuit must have been affected by the lack of accessibility. This means that they cannot file a lawsuit for the lack of disabled parking if they do not require disabled parking. If you and your attorney can prove that the plaintiff has no standing, you may be able to throw out the case.
The premises in question is not a public space
If the premises is not a public place, then it is not covered by the ADA law. Therefore, there are no alterations needed and no case.
If you remedy the issues named in the lawsuit before the case goes to trial, then you are the prevailing party. There is no issue to remedy and, therefore, no need for the lawsuit.
All of the above plans require either the law not to apply to the situation or for there to be a plan in place to fix the issue. If you do not have an ADA compliance plan in place and the ADA laws apply to your business, then you may need to take one of the following strategies:
● Subrogation – Filing a lawsuit against the contractor or designer who fitted out your business. This is a separate lawsuit where you try to recover some or all of the amount you paid because of the lawsuit.
● Early settlement – By settling early, you can reduce the damage the lawsuit may cause. You will often reduce the damage to your reputation and defense cost.
● An offer of judgment – This is similar to a settlement, but along with the settlement, you sign a promise to remedy the issue in question. An offer of judgment is often the best way to reduce the damage to your reputation as you are taking the issue seriously.