The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to make life easier and more equitable for people who struggle with disabling conditions of all sorts. It is not, however, meant to be a weapon that can be used to shake down small businesses for cash over minor violations.
Someone has found a method, however, of using the ADA for just that. Essentially, the system works like this:
- Someone is sent to a small business to look for minor issues that violate ADA regulations -- like not having the right handle on a door.
- Through a firm called The ADA Group that operates out of Montgomery, Alabama, that individual threatens to sue the small business over the violations.
- Even if the violations are fixed, the plaintiff files suit.
- Then, the plaintiff offers to settle the lawsuit out of court for a fixed sum -- either as a one-time payment or on a payment plan. They give the defendant business owner a short time to either pay up or proceed to court.
According to recent investigations, the plaintiff in one such lawsuit is connected to 14 other ADA complaints in the area -- and a total of 54 different lawsuits around the country.
Business owners feel trapped. If they pay up, they aren't sure if the plaintiff will come back with another alleged violation. If they proceed to court, it could be more expensive to defend themselves than it is to pay.
While there's legislation pending that would stop these kinds of nuisance lawsuits using the ADA as a tool, there's little protection for business owners right now -- except to make sure that they are in compliance with the law and standing their ground. Giving in and paying is likely only going to encourage the problem to continue.
Don't allow yourself or your business to be victimized by frivolous lawsuits. You have a right to operate your business without fear of unfair practices and abusive litigation. If you find your business is being targeted without good cause, find out more about what can be done to legally protect what you have built.