The most common ADA errors and omissions leading to lawsuits

Patrons, passerby and plaintiff's attorneys can spot technical violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design with relatively little training. In California and throughout the country, this has led to "drive by lawsuits," in which property owners and commercial businesses open to the public may be hit with a private lawsuit for a technical violation of Title VIII by plaintiffs targeting businesses.

The ADA has detailed provisions on the structure, elements, spaces and facilities public businesses must meet in order to remain compliant. In some cases, it is not enough merely to build or alter a business to fit local codes. You must ensure your business is compliant with the ADA or you may face litigation.

Many ADA violations are recurring

Many of the same complaints are repeated throughout the U.S. Particularly in California, numerous technical requirements can mean well-intentioned businesses are still in violation of the requirements of Title VIII and can be subjected to a lawsuit.

The following are the most common ADA claims continually appearing in courts:

Public restrooms. Stalls must have adequate width, including door width. In addition, all public restrooms must be handicap accessible.

Aisle widths. A fully-stocked merchandise shelf should still have 36 inches between the next aisle over. Floors should regularly be cleaned of merchandise. In California, state law increased this requirement to at least 44 inches.

Parking lots. Technical Title VIII violations in parking lots can be easy to spot. Common errors include building a curb ramp that projects into the access aisle, failing to provide a route from a handicap accessible space to the building and failing to have van accessible handicap space.

Ramps. Common violations include landing areas being too small, steep ramps lacking handrails and edge protection, and steep side flares on curb ramps.

You can also find common Title VIII errors in new construction and alterations prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice here.

Defense of ADA violations

In response to the history of drive-by ADA lawsuits in the state, several years ago it was reported that California passed a law requiring any potential plaintiff in a lawsuit to notify the business of the violation, and giving the business time to correct the issue prior to filing suit. The law in fact was proposed, but before it got out of committee the prior notice provision was removed, taking the most important part out of the bill. When the bill was passed without the prior notice provision, the media incorrectly reported that the problem was solved leading everyone to think that the new law contained the prior notice provision.

Unfortunately, however, time has shown that this law by no means has put an end to drive-by ADA accessibility lawsuits. In fact, the number of cases has increased. It is still a prominent danger faced by property owners, retailers and anyone with a building accessible to the public.

If you have questions on your compliance with ADA regulations or have received a demand letter, contact the experienced attorneys at The Karlin Law Firm, LLP.