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 the cost to retain counsel.
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 serial plaintiffs. And the numbers continue to rise. 2016 saw a 37-percent increase, and lawsuits reached a new high in 2017 with 7663 cases filed in federal court.
The most successful lawyers have made a profession out of 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. AAHOA is committed to working with all parties that want to focus on returning to the ADA's true intent – expanding access for all Americans.