WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) will testify before the House
Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice
today in favor of a new bill he introduced earlier this year seeking to
protect small businesses from the widespread abuse of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) by plaintiffs’ lawyers who Calvert says only “care about their own bank accounts.”
(ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services) Act, also known as
H.R 241, would require an aggrieved person to notify a business of an ADA
violation in writing and give the business owner 60 days to provide the
aggrieved individual a detailed description of improvements to remedy the
violation. Then, the owner would have 120 days to remove the infraction.
Failure to meet these conditions would be grounds to further the lawsuit.
The Bizer Law
Firm based in New Orleans has become notorious for filing a large number
of ADA lawsuits in recent years. The law firm is currently representing three men
suing the city of New Orleans, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), and the
RTA's private manager, Transdev, claiming lack of access to the St. Charles Streetcar,
which the plaintiffs’ assert violates the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
don’t know all the details and can’t comment on this case in particular, we’ve
recently seen a spike in civil lawsuits targeting property owners and small
businesses for relatively minor violations of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA)," Melissa Landry, executive director for the Louisiana Lawsuit
Abuse Watch, told the Louisiana Record. "We understand much of
the ADA litigation in Louisiana has been driven by the Bizer Law Firm, which
has reportedly filed more than 100 lawsuits on behalf of a small group of
serial plaintiffs over the last five years. For example, one of the plaintiffs
in this case is involved in more than a dozen other ADA lawsuits against local
In 2012, David
Whitaker, partner at New Orleans-based defense firm Kean Miller, told Legal Newsline that Bizer's ADA lawsuits
generally follow the same pattern and tend to be more focused on steering
defendants into settlements rather than correcting the alleged violations.
complaints are like cookie-cutters," Whitaker said at the time. "They
are all the same. The only thing that really changes is the name of the
Landry said that
ADA is an important tool in ensuring that people with disabilities have equal
access to jobs and opportunities in our country. But the well-meaning law is being
manipulated by some personal injury lawyers to make money at the expense of
businesses and job creators.
owners and small businesses in the Greater New Orleans area are especially
vulnerable to this new wave of ADA litigation," Landry said. "For
some small locally owned shops and restaurants who can’t afford to pay huge
settlements or millions of dollars to renovate their old and sometimes historic
properties, one lawsuit could be all it takes to put them out of
told the Louisiana Record that as a
property owner himself, he has had to deal with complaints from people who find
minor discrepancy in a building or in following the regulations; and instead of
being given time to correct the infraction, owners get slapped with lawsuits
and “lawyers get rich.”
all want to have access (for) the disabled; we just don’t want to make this an
excuse for lawyers to sue small business owners,” he said. “Nobody is objecting
to making sure that we have access for the disabled.”
said some of the infractions are really minor, like not having a sign in the
right location or neglecting to paint a line in the right way.
rushing to file lawsuits, Calvert said business owners should be given an
opportunity to fix infractions and comply with the law.
McKinney, director of communications for the American Tort Reform Association,
told the Louisiana Record that the
association is in full support of the bill.
realistically, being an election year and with the stranglehold that the trial
bar has on Senate Democrats generally, one can’t be particularly optimistic
about the bill," he said. "But certainly it is needed; the congressman is to be
said small businesses around the country are supportive of the bill because ADA
lawsuits “are spreading like kudzu all around the country now.”
said the issue is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but just a common-sense
solution to a problem.
supposed to help people that are disabled, not help some attorney get his kids
through college,” he said
expecting resistance from those “trying to enrich themselves on the backs of
think those guys really give a hoot about the disabled; they care about their
own bank accounts,” he said.
has never had a complaint from disabled groups about being given a chance to
fix infractions. In fact, people with disabilities want to get the problem
fixed to make sure they get access, he said.
the kind of thing that is common-sense stuff, and I think we need to get this
passed as soon as possible," he said.