In an effort to combat frivolous lawsuits, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) has introduced H.R. 1493, the ADA Lawsuit Clarification Act. The bill is designed to deter lawsuits accusing small businesses of violating portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“Many small businesses are under attack, especially here in the Valley. It’s a disgrace that the owners and operators of these local businesses are falling victim to predatory lawsuits, often leaving them with little opportunity to address or correct the issue,” said Rep. Denham. “I hope to alleviate the concern that business owners have when faced with these frivolous lawsuits. This change in law will assure that they can increase access to the disabled instead of closing up shop because they’re threatened with costly litigation and legal fees.”
The ADA Lawsuit Clarification Act gives business owners and operators 120 days to respond to an ADA violation complaint and correct it before being held civilly or criminally liable under federal and state law. It also requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make compliance materials available in languages commonly used by business owners and operators. Currently, there is no federal “grace period” in place, which would give business owners adequate time to respond to and correct potential ADA compliance violations.
In addition to federal standards, California imposes additional violations, places the burden of proof on business owners and institutes a minimum fine of $4,000 for each ADA violation. More than 40 percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits are filed in California.
Denham’s introduction of the ADA Lawsuit Clarification Act comes on the heels of the House Committee on the Judiciary’s “Legal Reform Week” in the House of Representatives. Denham signed on as a co-sponsor of Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Texas) bill, the ADA Education and Reform Act, which gives business owners and operators the opportunity to correct any non-ADA compliant structural barriers before lawsuits may proceed, establishes standards for notification to business owners of alleged violations and encourages better compliance through DOJ and stakeholder collaboration. Additionally last week, Denham helped support the passage of a set of bills to fight lawsuit abuse, including H.R. 720, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act; H.R. 725, the Innocent Party Protection Act; and H.R. 985, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act.