Today’s Google news brought another batch of outraged articles about serial ADA plaintiffs and legislators looking for solutions to the ADA litigation epidemic. The serial filer was in the Wichita, Kansas area, and the legislators were in Colorado, but otherwise the stories were pretty much the same as the stories last week, and the week before, and the week before that. Business owners say they were surprised to find that they were not ADA compliant, and lawmakers say the law should require a pre-suit demand so businesses have a chance to fix their problems before they get sued. The plaintiff, or his lawyer, always points out that the ADA has been in effect for 25 years, so it shouldn’t really be news.
In a few weeks the Wichita and Colorado stories will be stale and it will be business as usual for everyone who wasn’t actually sued. When a serial filer comes to town it is a little bit like a flu epidemic, a tornado, or a plant closing. A splash of news, and then it is forgotten. The businesses that are sued will fix their ADA violations in order to settle, but their neighbors and friends at the local chamber of commerce probably won’t bother to have an ADA compliance survey done or consider whether they might be the next target. I recently participated in a chamber of commerce program to educate local businesses on ADA compliance. The other presenter was a registered accessibility specialist who told me later that he did not get a single call from a business wanting a survey despite the fact that some 30 local businesses had been sued in the preceding months.
There is no doubt that lawyers and plaintiffs sometimes abuse the ADA, filing drive-by suits that use generic allegations which may not even be true. It is also true that the Department of Justice has done a miserable job of reaching out to small businesses. This doesn’t explain, however, why businesses who see serial litigation in their own backyard do nothing to check their own ADA compliance. I am preaching to the choir with the readers of this blog, but I hope those who stumble across it while looking for information on drive-by litigation will understand that an ounce of pre-litigation prevention is worth a pound of litigation cure. The easiest way to put serial filers out of business is simply to make sure your business is ADA compliant. A good place to start is my earlier blog on DIY surveys, Litigants, lawyers and tape measures – DIY ADA compliance. If you want to know more, email me for a copy of this year’s webinar “Avoiding ADA Lawsuits, a DIY Guide.”