For nearly two decades, unscrupulous lawyers and serial plaintiffs have targeted hotels and extorted tens of thousands of dollars under the guise of helping Americans with disabilities. These lawyers do not seek to increase access or eliminate barriers for persons with disabilities; rather, their demand letters describe overly technical or potential infractions and demand thousands of dollars to settle at a price point that is slightly less than typical attorney fees.
The intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to prohibit discrimination and ensure that all Americans have equal access to goods and services. Unfortunately, this important law has been used as a weapon by scheming lawyers to make a quick buck off of small business owners.
The numbers speak for themselves. In 2014 and 2015, 9225 cases were filed in the United States. The number of cases surged 63 percent following 2013, and the vast majority of these lawsuits were filed by a select few lawyers and plaintiffs.
The most successful lawyers have made a profession targeting hundreds of hotels in the same region during the same few months. Once word spreads throughout communities, they shamelessly move to another location and target hotels in a new area. Ultimately, small business owners often settle and lose anywhere between $5000 and $10,000 per case, even when they are in full compliance with the federal law.
AAHOA strongly supports legislation that both discourages corrupt litigious incentives and promotes effective strategies to ensure that all individuals have equal access to places of public accommodation.
In conjunction with leading industry partners, AAHOA advocates on behalf of HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act. This legislation, which is sponsored by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX-2), offers property owners an opportunity to receive notice of an alleged violation and a period to fix any problems. Among other important provisions, this bill would also develop educational programs on ADA compliance for state and local governments, as well as property owners.
Take action today by urging your elected officials to support HR 620.