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ADA Lawsuit Abuse

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What Is ADA Lawsuit Abuse?

ADA lawsuit abuse refers to instances where a person abuses the legal system by filing multiple lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A common example of this is where a person or persons visit many different business establishments with the intention of identifying ADA violations (such as a lack of handicap parking spaces, inaccessible bathrooms, or no wheelchair ramps).
Once they identify a potential violation, they may then attempt to sue the business establishment for injuries. In some cases, the person doesn’t even enter the business establishment—they may simply drive by the place, looking for violations outside or in the parking lot. They can target many businesses at a time, and seek to collect a large sum of money from the different businesses involved.

How Have Laws Changed to Adapt to ADA Lawsuit Abuse?

Many states and local municipalities have become aware of the phenomenon of widespread ADA lawsuit abuse. As such, some areas have adjusted their ADA policies to address the issue of lawsuit abuse. For instance, some states have raised the minimum amount that a person must be claiming for filing an ADA lawsuit. This would subject business owners to less lawsuits if the plaintiffs were not subjected to extraordinary expenses.

Other states have required that the plaintiff be responsible for the defendant’s legal fees if they lose the lawsuit. This has often served as a deterrent in order to discourage persons from filing lawsuits that have no basis or that have a low likelihood of success in court.

What Are the Consequences of Filing a Frivolous Lawsuit?

Filing a frivolous lawsuit can lead to legal penalties. These can include a contempt order, monetary fines, and possible criminal charges. Other penalties and legal consequences may result depending on state laws. In some cases, ADA lawsuit abuse may also involve filing a claim against an employer who is discriminating against a person with a disability. While it is illegal for an employer to engage in retaliatory discharge (i.e., firing an employee who files complaint), filing a frivolous discrimination lawsuit can also lead to legal penalties.

Procedural laws prohibit the filing of frivolous lawsuits, and filing one can create legal consequences for the plaintiff. Consequences for filing a fraudulent or frivolous lawsuit may include:

  • A contempt order from the court
  • Monetary fines
  • In some case, criminal charges (especially in cases of "serial plaintiffs", who file multiple frivolous lawsuits all at one time)

Also, the same types of consequences can result for defendants who knowingly participate in a frivolous lawsuit. Frivolous lawsuits may also be filed in connection with discrimination provisions found in the ADA.

How Can I Protect My Business Against ADA Lawsuits?

In general, most disability lawsuits can be prevented by ensuring that your business is following ADA requirements in the first place. You can do this by hiring a certified specialist who can inspect your business premises for possible ADA violations. They will also prescribe what types of adjustments you might need to make in order to comply with ADA requirements. You can also hire an attorney if you have any questions regarding disability laws in your area.

Another step to take is to check whether the statute of limitations has expired (i.e., the filing deadline for a lawsuit). If a person waits too long to file a lawsuit, eventually the court will not allow them to pursue their legal action.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with ADA Lawsuit Abuse?

Dealing with a lawsuit against your business can be time consuming and costly. It’s in your best interests to hire an employment lawyer if you need help with any type of ADA requirements or other legal issues. Your attorney can advise you on how to protect your business, and can represent you in court if you need to participate in a lawsuit.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 02-28-2018 11:49 PM PST

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