Washington, DC -- Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50) joined with Riverside County Congressman Ken Calvert in introducing the ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services Act (ACCESS Act). This legislation would protect small business owners from frivolous lawsuits led by unscrupulous lawyers misusing provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for financial gain.
“The ADA bill was passed with the intention of protecting those with disabilities, not for filling the pockets of predatory lawyers on the back of small business owners,” said Congressman Hunter. “These frivolous lawsuits only make it more difficult for those in the disabled community and this bill brings some common-sense reforms to address this important issue.”
Currently, business owners often learn their property is not compliant with ADA regulations only when a court action is brought against them, thus preventing any opportunity for the problem to be corrected prior to legal action. In some instances, lawyers are taking advantage of this situation by purposely targeting historic communities with older structures to initiate “drive-by” lawsuits against businesses with the hopes of achieving a legal financial settlement. Communities in Congressman Hunter’s district, such as Julian, Alpine, and Ramona, have been targeted in the past.
The ACCESS Act would provide businesses up to 60 days to rectify the problem before civil legal action can be taken. This approach promotes compliance and clarifies requirements for demand letters. The legislation also ensures that the Department of Justice, in consultation with property owners and representatives of the disability community, develop a program to educate State and local governments and property owners on effective and efficient strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability. The ACCESS Act is similar to legislation Congressman Hunter introduced in the past.
“This has been a problem for a long time, one with a very fixable solution,” said Congressman Hunter. “I am hopeful that this is the year we can get something done that benefits everyone involved. The only ones opposed to this reform are the trial lawyers who take advantage of laws designed to help those with physical challenges.”
In addition, the ACCESS Act would mandate that the Attorney General must complete a study to determine whether Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) standards, accessibility widgets, or providing a telephone number are reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. This study would attempt to prevent future online drive-by lawsuits. This legislation has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
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