California readers would probably not deny that people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else. Businesses should provide them access to buildings, bathrooms and other areas that would otherwise be off limits to them due to their disabilities.
Most businesses do their best to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they may not always get it right. In these cases, it is reasonable for someone with a disability to point out an issue so that the business and/or property owner can correct the problem. Having said that, as the saying goes, "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch." Some people use their disabilities as a weapon against unsuspecting businesses.
These lawsuits occur when an individual drives by an establishment, notices some sort of ADA violation and then files a lawsuit about it. He or she may not even stay at the location for any appreciable period. The following issues have spurred drive-by lawsuits:
- A built-up ramp in the Access Aisle
- Incorrect or missing signage related to accessibility
- An ADA parking space painted with the incorrect dimensions
Unfortunately, the filer is not required to give the property and/or business owner the opportunity to correct the problem. Instead, the plaintiff usually files their lawsuit looking for settlement money, along with the fix of the usually minor violation. The plaintiff is not required to park or get out of their car. They simply just need to have some concern that violation that they can visually see could potentially cause them some problem with accessing the property.
It hardly seems like a fair transaction. After all, many business owners would gladly fix the issue if given the chance.
Could a change in the law help?
Many people believe it would. In fact, some have proposed legislation at the federal and state levels in order to curb the filing of drive-by lawsuits. Congress entertained legislation that has not yet passed, which would require the following before filing a lawsuit:
- A letter sent to the establishment outlining the issue
- Owner has 60 days to respond with a plan of action
- Owner has 120 days to correct the issue
At the expiration of those 120 days, if the owner fails to address the problem, one may file a lawsuit.
This legislation would more than likely curtail drive-by lawsuits since most owners would fix the issues upon notice. It would keep small business owners from facing litigation over minor and easily fixable infractions that are more than likely oversights and not intentional omissions.