A recent NPR report published yesterday highlights the growing susceptibility that California small businesses have for becoming named in lawsuits asserting violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the NPR report, immigrant owned businesses in California are being targeted because of the owners’ unfamiliarity with the legal requirements or inability to spend the money needed to retain a lawyer to help defend them.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that requires equal access to stores, offices, and public places all over the country. However, more than 40% of ADA lawsuits are filed in California, according to some statistics. Some California lawyers and litigants have created a cottage industry around the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some plaintiffs file hundreds of complaints a year, collecting a living off small businesses that aren’t compliant with the ADA. Small business advocates and community leaders say they focus on minority-owned businesses because they make for easier targets.
In California, small businesses (defined as having 25 or fewer employees and no more than $3.5 million in gross annual receipts) faced with ADA violations can be pursued for $4,000 plus attorneys’ fees. There are some provisions that allow lower damages, for example, if the violations are corrected within 30 days of being served with a Complaint, or if all construction-related violations are fixed within 60 days after receiving a Complaint.
The typical ADA complaint arises when a plaintiff drives by and notes barriers to a business, such as narrow entry ways, inadequate parking spaces, lack of signage. Plaintiffs could also try to visit the business inspecting the “path of travel,” including inspecting aisle width, counter height, and restroom access.
Small businesses who receive a letter outlining violations of the ADA and demanding money should not ignore them. It could be the start of litigation, given that plaintiffs bringing ADA claims rarely “go away” on their own. If a lawsuit is filed, small business owners could face costs that far exceed their revenues.
Axis Legal Counsel represents clients in numerous types of business litigation disputes, lawsuits, and claims, including those involving negligent, intentional, fraudulent conduct, breaches of contract, real estate disputes, violations of state and federal law, contractual disputes, and numerous other similar matters.
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For information on retaining Axis Legal Counsel to represent your company in a business dispute including an ADA violation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation.