WASHINGTON– U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-42) is scheduled to
testify before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee
on Constitution and Civil Justice today in favor of a new bill he introduced
earlier this year seeking to protect small
businesses from the widespread abuse of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) by plaintiffs’
lawyers who Calvert says are “trying
to enrich themselves on the backs of the disabled.”
The ACCESS (ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services)
Act, also known as H.R 241, would require an aggrieved person to notify a business
of an ADA violation in writing, and give the business owner 60 days to provide the
aggrieved individual a detailed description of improvements to remedy the
violation. Then, the owner would have 120 days to remove the infraction.
Failure to meet these conditions would be grounds to further the lawsuit.
Justice Association of California supports this legislation because it would do
two things: one, reduce the extortionate ADA lawsuits that are more about money
than about justice; and two, would lead to increased access for the disabled,” Kim
Stone, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, told the Northern California Record.
The ADA was enacted in 1990 by Congress, and prohibits
discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation,
public accommodation, communications and governmental activities.
Over the years, countless lawsuits have been filed against entities by
plaintiffs claiming that the companies in question violated the ADA by not
catering to people with disabilities. Many small businesses with modest budgets
have taken a hit financially as a result, leaving many business owners
goals of the ADA are noble -- unfortunately a small number of unscrupulous
lawyers are using ADA lawsuits as a way to get quick lucrative settlements," Stone said. "Many of these cases settle for money and don't even require the business to
become compliant! If businesses were notified of the problem
before a lawsuit was filed, they could fix it. This would prevent the need for
a lawsuit and would also increase access for the disabled.”
the California Commission on Disability Access’ 2015 Annual Report to the California State
Legislature, there were 2,323 federal and state ADA complaints submitted to the
commission in 2015. This number does not include demand letters. Forty percent
of the complaints were filed by two law firms, 70 percent of the complaints were
filed by six law firms.
69 percent of plaintiffs involved in construction-related accessibility
complaints filed 10 or more complaints in 2015 alone.
has become ground zero for ADA lawsuit abuse,” Calvert told the Northern California Record.
As a property
owner himself, Calvert said he has been on the receiving end of complaints by
people who find minor discrepancy in a building or in following the regulations,
and instead of being given time to correct the infraction, owners get slapped
with lawsuits and “lawyers get rich.”
“We all want to have access (for) the
disabled; we just don’t want to make this an excuse for lawyers to sue small
business owners,” he said. “Nobody is objecting to making sure that we have
access for the disabled.”
some of the infractions are really minor, like not having a sign in the right
location or neglecting to paint a line in the right way.
“Give them a
chance to fix it and comply with the law rather than filing a lawsuit and
paying this lawyer a lot of money," Calvert said. "That doesn’t do anybody any good."
ADA lawsuits are particularly prevalent in California. Forty percent of
the nation’s ADA lawsuits are filed in the state, yet only 12 percent of the
country’s population resides in California, according to the California Chamber
On May 12, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation aiming to
protecting small businesses from costly lawsuits over technical ADA violations.
Senate Bill 269, sponsored by
Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside), gives businesses 15 days to fix minor ADA violations
once a complaint or written notification has been received. The violations
covered by the law include faded or damaged paint in parking lots.
“This is not a Republican/Democrat issue,” Calvert said. “This is just a common-sense solution to a problem. This is supposed to help people that are disabled,
not help some attorney get his kids through college.”
But he’s expecting
resistance from those “trying to enrich themselves on the backs of the
think those guys really give a hoot about the disabled; they care about their
own bank accounts,” he said.
never had a complaint from disabled groups about being given a chance to fix infractions.
In fact, people with disabilities want to get the problem fixed to make sure
they get access, he said.
“This is the
kind of thing that is common-sense stuff, and I think we need to get this
passed as soon as possible," he said.