Help for victims of ADA-based extortion
The Americans with Disabilities Act was intended to prohibit discrimination against people with physical or mental impairments and to improve access for the disabled to public accommodations. Too often, however, it has been used to shake down businesses for minor violations, such as a door sign affixed an inch too high or too low or a disabled parking logo that is a little too faded or painted in the wrong shade of blue.
California is a particular magnet for extortionary ADA litigation, thanks to state law which mandates a minimum $4,000 penalty for each violation – no matter how small – plus the plaintiff’s attorney fees. It is home to about 12 percent of the country’s disabled population, but accounts for 40 percent of ADA lawsuits. Its disability access lawsuits were one of the main reasons the American Tort Reform Foundation once again named California the nation’s No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” last year.
Several legislative proposals would reform the system simply by requiring the aggrieved party to submit its complaints about alleged ADA violations to business owners in writing, and then allowing businesses a reasonable amount of time, usually 90 or 120 days, to fix any problems before litigation could be filed. Such federal bills include Rep. Ken Calvert’s, R-Corona, H.R. 241, the ACCESS Act of 2015, and Rep. Jerry McNerney’s, D-Stockton, H.R. 4719, the COMPLI Act.
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