New bill introduced to prevent people from abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act

Posted at 9:59 AM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2018-08-09 12:03:29-04

There is a new bill in Congress promising to stop people from abusing the American’s with Disabilities Act.

Attorneys call them “serial ADA suers” because they often file dozens of lawsuits against businesses for minor violations and then demand thousands of dollars to settle.

Right now, you can sue a business for any type of ADA violation. H.R. 620 won’t prevent people from suing, but it will require those people to give the business owner notice to correct the alleged violation before filing a case in court.

“I don’t know if the ADA even contemplated these types of lawsuits,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said.

Lamborn is appalled to hear people are using the Americans with Disabilities Act to make money and it’s legal—at least for now!

Melissa Umphenour, Santiago Abreu and Terrell Frederick combined filed nearly 200 ADA-related lawsuits since 2015 in Colorado.

Many of the lawsuits center around issues like “accessible” signs not posted at a proper height or toilet paper dispensers being mounted a few inches too high or low.

“These drive-by lawsuits appear to me to be an abuse of the legal system and if they don’t give the business owner notice or time to fix the problem, it sounds like they are just out for the money,” Lamborn said.

For example, Frederick sued Panda Express because the front door allegedly took more than 5 pounds of force to open, but he failed to explain how he measured that.

Seven days later, his attorney sent Panda Express a letter telling the restaurant they’ll drop the case if they pay a one-time fee of $2,750. The settlement “offer” made no mention of when the alleged violation needed to be fixed.

Panda Express also received no prior notice of the alleged violation until they were served with a lawsuit.

Congressman Ted Poe believes his bill will curb these types of lawsuits by requiring people to talk with business owners and work together to get violations corrected if they exist.

“The ADA is a vital law that is meant to make American businesses more accessible to the disabled. But the integrity of this important law is being threatened.  The vast majority of small businesses in America strive to serve their customers to the best of their ability – relying on the ADA as another tool to help ensure that customers with disabilities can enjoy the services that they provide,” said Congressman Poe. “Most of these business owners believe that they are in compliance with the ADA and have even passed local and state inspections. However, despite their best attempts, certain attorneys and their pool of serial plaintiffs troll for minor, easily correctable ADA infractions so they can file a lawsuit and make some cash. There is a now whole industry made up of people who prey on small business owners and file unnecessary abusive lawsuits that abuse both the ADA and the business owners. This bill will change that by requiring that the business owners have time to fix what is allegedly broken. If they fail to correct the infractions the plaintiff retains all of their rights to pursue legal action. This legislation restores the purpose of the ADA: to provide access and accommodation to disabled Americans, not to fatten the wallets of attorneys.”

Lamborn tells News 5 Investigates that he fully supports Poe’s efforts to pass this bill.

“I’m going to help push and make Congressman Ted Poe get this bill across the finish line,” Lamborn said. “I think it’s a great piece of legislation.”

You can read more about Congressman Poe’s bill here.