From the Sperling Law Files: Profitable Times for Disability Lawsuits

Most people will agree that providing equal access to all buildings and businesses is a good thing. That sentiment drove the creation of legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

The ADA was enacted to ensure access for the disabled to public accommodations, but too often it has been abused to shake down businesses — particularly smaller businesses which are more inclined to pay off plaintiffs because they lack the means to engage in expensive litigation — for the most minor of violations that do not actually impede access at all.

The problem is exacerbated here in California due to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which incorporates provisions of the ADA but offers much higher fines — a minimum of $4,000 per infraction, versus $1,000 for the federal ADA — and requires payment of plaintiffs’ legal fees. So it should be no surprise that a cottage industry of ADA hustlers has sprung up in the Golden State, which now accounts for 40 percent of ADA cases nationwide, despite being home to just 12 percent of the country’s disabled population.

According to the OC Register, “Most claims are filed by a small number of serial plaintiffs (and their attorneys) who canvass strip malls and business parks looking for any technical excuse to threaten a business with many thousands of dollars in legal claims. In fact, from 2012 to 2014, 54 percent of all construction-related accessibility complaints in the state were filed by just two law firms, and 14 plaintiffs brought 46 percent of all lawsuits, the California Commission on Disability Access found.”

Your nuisance lawsuit watchdog Dean Sperling recently was called into action because one of his clients, a building owner with a strip mall, received a threatening notice from a potential plaintiff and his law firm asking for $4,000 and a promise to make the needed repairs within one year as an incentive NOT to file a lawsuit for some possible ADA infractions. Dean says, “most of these cases settle because taking the matter to court is too costly and disruptive.” …And the lawyers know it.

Sometimes the greatest disability we face is a clear lack of conscience. It’s wrong. We know it, they know it and yet it happens every day. If/When it happens to your business, be sure you have Dean Sperling, one of the good guys, on your side to resolve YOUR matter with YOUR best interests in mind.

More on the Case:

ADA lawsuit abuse remains a problem