I often get phone calls from attorneys who ask me to visit their client’s business to confirm the merits of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit against their client. I usually tell the attorney that I can save them money by not visiting the site because I am almost 100% sure the violations claimed by the Serial Plaintiff are real. You see, there are soooooooo many violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by small businesses that serial plaintiffs really do not need to make up violations that do not exist. If a serial plaintiff claims they exist, then they probably do. After all, it has been estimated that 98% of businesses in California have at least one violation of the ADA that could result in a lawsuit.
Serial plaintiffs are really good as what they do and have honed their skills over the last several years. They will typically visit a business and record several violations, however, when the lawsuit is filed, they only cite the violations in the parking lot knowing full well that they will get to the other violations in a separate lawsuit to be filed in six months or a year. This is where many businesses go wrong…………they make the necessary corrections as described in the lawsuit and think they are in full compliance with the ADA, not realizing they have 20 other violations inside the building.
Another mistake that I see quite often is where business make the necessary ADA corrections based on the violations indicated in the lawsuit, but do so in such a way that they do not meet the minimum requirements of the ADA and therefore continue to subject themselves to an ADA lawsuit. In order to save money on their ADA improvements, business owners frequently hire General Contractors to do the work, however, what business owners do not understand is that contractors have no formal training in the ADA and typically only make ADA improvements based on plans prepared by an Architect and approved by the Authorities having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s).
In order to help prevent lawsuits for violations of the ADA, I would strongly encourage all businesses in California to enlist the services of an Architect who is also a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) (such as myself) so they can survey your business and provide you with a CASp Report and they can also prepare architectural drawings for the ADA improvements. In addition, and to provide further protections to the business owner, I would strongly encourage that all drawings prepared by an Architect be submitted to the Authorities having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) that will provide a final check to confirm the drawings meet the accessibility requirements.
For those businesses located outside of California, I would still encourage business to enlist the services of an Architect to review their business with regards to accessibility and who can also prepare drawings for the ADA improvements. A drawing prepared by an Architect is one of the best ways to prevent lawsuits for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).