Florida businesses are suffering from an epidemic of lawsuits -- but they finally have access to a way to inoculate themselves.
Now, someone just needs to spread the message so that more business owners know what to do.
Drive-by lawsuits are costing companies thousands
There are people who are using the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to file what are known as "drive-by" lawsuits. Testers go from business to business, looking for even trivial violations. When they find one, a lawsuit is filed. The owner usually has to spend a few thousand to both fix the problem and settle the lawsuit.
It's a potentially crippling problem for many small businesses who lack the means to fight back. In addition, the thousands of lawsuits being filed are far more about lining the pockets of the filers than they are about ensuring access for the disabled. There are opportunists who have developed an entire livelihood around filing these kinds of legal complaints.
Florida offers an opportunity to buy time and get compliant
To stop the constant barrage of claims, Florida has enacted Bill 772. It aims to protect owners against lawsuits that are all about the money while still ensuring compliance toward the needs of the disabled.
According to Bill 727, business owners can take the following steps:
- Hire an expert and ask that he or she evaluate the business for compliance with the ADA.
- If there are no problems, the expert can file a certificate of conformity with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
- If there are compliance problems, the expert can help establish a remedial plan to fix any problems with the building that would put the business in violation if they were served with papers.
- File their plan online with the DBPR.
Either way, that serves as public notice that the building is either in compliance or making reasonable efforts to do so. In addition, before a judgment can be awarded against the business for noncompliance, the court can now consider the certificate of compliance, the remediation plan and whether or not the plaintiff actually filed the lawsuit in good faith.
Business owners need to spread the word
Unfortunately, there's no aggressive campaign to market the news. That means business owners need to spread the word among themselves about this new tool to combat financially-draining business lawsuits.
Source: WPTV.com, "Florida's 'drive-by' ADA lawsuit problem has a solution, business owners just don't know about it," Katie LaGrone, Jan. 17, 2018