Congress Takes Action to Slow "Drive-by" Lawsuits

Posted on February 26, 2018

Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 620, a bill to improve the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by reducing opportunities for people to file nuisance lawsuits under the law. The legislation, which allows property owners to fix any alleged violations while keeping penalties in place for businesses that remain in noncompliance, passed 225-192 and will now move to the Senate.

The measure is aimed at eliminating so-called “drive-by lawsuits,” a tactic used by some “unscrupulous trial lawyers,” as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) called them, whose lawsuits, he said, “[divert] money from accessibility where it belongs.” As documented in a 60 Minutes report last year, some lawyers cruise around local communities in an attempt to spot minor ADA infractions at offices, gas stations, malls and other locations. In some cases, these lawyers don’t even bother to leave their homes, and instead use aerial images from Google Maps to target alleged violators.

H.R. 620 requires that anyone making a complaint against a business must file a written complaint. It gives the business owner 60 days to fix any violation, and up to an additional 60 days if the owner is acting in good faith and can demonstrate substantial progress toward making the changes. Owners who refuse to address violations could be sued.

As Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted: “The common-sense policies included in the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 will help provide greater access to public accommodations for disabled Americans, and will allow business owners to focus on fixing their properties, not defending themselves against endless disputes.”

NAIOP supports the mission and objectives of the ADA. Common sense enforcement of the ADA strengthens the original intent of the law while focusing private property owners’ resources on addressing violations and improving accessibility, rather than paying lawyers’ fees for small technical violations.

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