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Congress makes Mountian out of Molehill in Order to "Save" the ADA

July 28, 2020


Senator Orin Hatch is geared up to take on evil "plaintiff lawyers [who] have exploited vulnerabilities in the ADA". These lawyers have purportedly sent individuals into stores and other small businesses in order to exploit minor violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Some even strong-arming small businesses who didn't even realize they were committing a violation. Sen. Hatch points out businesses sometimes are targeted in these "drive-by lawsuits" for having "an access ramp that is just a few inches off to a sign that uses the wrong font-size."

Whether or not a few lawyers have filed some rather frivolous lawsuits against businesses is not question. Of the countless lawsuits filed in State and Federal courts each year, I have no doubt that one was for a violation of the ADA due to an access ramp being a bit too short. However, that does not equate to businesses being victimized by lawyers and plaintiffs on a regular basis.

Should small businesses have protections in place so that they cannot be held liable for unwittingly committing a technical violation of law? Absolutely. But disparaging an entire profession and class of citizens who happen to be lawyers or plaintiffs is unnecessary.

Small businesses should be protected against what could be for them overly burdensome costs associated with ensuring that they are fully compliant with the ADA. This is already accomplished in some measure by the limiting coverage of the ADA applying only to those businesses with 15 or more employees. Businesses this size and larger are presumed to be able to afford the costs required to bring their places of business up to ADA standards.

Ultimately, Senator Hatch has tossed a yellow flag onto the field and cried foul on ADA plaintiffs and their attorneys due to a few bad apples. His goal is to protect businesses, big and small, from people. There may be some good that comes from this but the ADA is not at risk at being destroyed by the legal profession.

"The good news is there's a potential solution: allowing businesses a brief grace period to correct accessibility violations before lawyers can bring suit. This update to the law could maintain the legal enforcement mechanism necessary to ensure ADA compliance while giving business owners sufficient time to fix mistakes that few even knew they were making in the first place."

We won't know what these proposed amendments will ultimately be until they are passed and signed into law; however, I wouldn't hold my breath that Plaintiffs who have legitimate grievances won't have a few extra hoops to jump through.