First Fix, Then Fight is a slogan and a philosophy for the defense of ADA and FHA lawsuits. It is also the most practical approach to the defense of such claims. Sooner or later, almost every owner of a commercial or multi-family residential property will receive a demand letter or be served with a lawsuit claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or Fair Housing Act accessibility standards. Although the accessibility standards are now more than 20 years old, accessibility lawsuits continue to increase, and surveys indicate that almost all commercial and multi-family properties have some accessibility violations.
Accessibility lawsuits are always irksome. Most businesses try to comply with the ADA and FHA, and getting sued over a handful of minor violations seems unfair. Nonetheless, a strategy based on remediation rather than an aggressive litigation response is almost aways the most sensible response to an accessibility claim. The accessibility guidelines are generally objective, and a complaint that a doorway is too narrow or a ramp is too steep is probably true. The ADA requires remediation of all barriers to access if readily achievable, and provides for attorneys’ fees for prevailing plaintiffs. Most ADA violations can be fixed at modest expense, so the legal fees incurred fighting over whether to remediate may exceed the cost of remediation. Courts have awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to plaintiffs’ attorneys who demanded complete remediation even when the barriers to be remediated were few in number and cheap to fix. Why? Because the law requires remediation, and the property owner who resisted remediation was seen as the unreasonable party responsible for the increased fees.
At Hunt Huey PLLC we apply this philosophy to minimize the expense of ADA and FHA litigation whenever possible. We help our clients take control of the issues by finding and fixing any real ADA or FHA violations so that they can bargain from a position of strength. We negotiate with opposing counsel from a position of knowledge about both the law and the usual costs of settlement — market knowledge that comes only with experience. Finally, when the plaintiff simply will not be reasonable, we bring more than 45 years of litigation experience to bear on getting out of the case with the least expense and most protection from liability possible. First Fix, Then Fight.