The American Disabilities Act was designed with the intent that those with disabilities could have equal access to certain necessities without being restricted merely due to their inabilities. This does require many businesses to provide additional access to facilities such as designated parking places, wheelchair ramps, and other accommodations that able-bodied people do not need. However, the ADA has specific wording that can be abused in frivolous lawsuits often filed against business owners based on technicalities and superficial claims of injury, including publishing accommodations on the business website. These claimants can also act in a pattern in attempting to exploit the technical applications of the ADA, which is exactly what has been happening in New York in claims filed by one particular Florida resident.
There have been 29 recurring lawsuits in U.S. District Court of Northern New York from one specific plaintiff based on very similar circumstances. The serial plaintiff is a self-proclaimed ADA accommodations “tester” who has explained she is conducting research on business compliance with the disability law and filing suit against those she finds non-compliant. Some states such as Florida have statutes that establish standing for compliance testers who file court claims without a specific injury. Their position is that the business is totally negligent in non-compliance, thereby justifying a claim for damages without an injury extent to measure.
A New York U.S. District Court judge has now ruled that this is unacceptable in the court system. The judge issued an order requiring the serial plaintiff to have an actual proven injury of some sort in order to have standing to sue along with proving that she is indeed disabled and has visited the business. Even though the proving the plaintiff is disabled can easily be accomplished, lack of standing can now be used as an ADA defense for defendants in these frivolous claims based on minute technicalities.
If this position is repeated in other jurisdictions, it can give ADA lawyers and their clients a valid ADA defense argument regarding complete standing to file a lawsuit. The claim must be a personal injury lawsuit first with the ADA stipulations applied after establishing the injury when assessing the non-compliance negligence level of the defendant.