Feb 17, 2017
They call themselves advocates for the disabled but serial ADA lawsuit filers have now inspired a Florida lawmaker to take action. Florida Representative Tom Leek (R- Daytona Beach) recently filed a bill that gives businesses the opportunity to fight ADA lawsuits become they're served with papers.
Here's how it would work. Businesses, before every being sued, could voluntarily hire a licensed expert to identify violations of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). That expert would then put together a remediation plan with an estimated timeframe of when violations should be corrected. So, if the business is sued for an ADA violation, that business could present the plan to a judge that would show they already have in plan in place to fix ADA issues. As a result, the person filing that lawsuit would lose their grounds to sue and the case could get dropped.
A few years ago Michael Marsh, owner of Shoreline Island Resort in Madeira Beach, was sued by Florida's most prolific ADA filer, Howard Cohan. The suit alleged the resort was not in compliance with the ADA because of a series of ADA violations including parking space issues and the lack of a pool lift. Marsh, who bought back the resort his family once owned, didn't realize he was in violation of the ADA when he was served with the lawsuit.
"I want to see where we are informed of the things we're out of compliance with. I think this bill is trying to do that, it's a step in the right direction," he said in response to the filing of the bill. However, Marsh cautions that the bill doesn't appear to do enough to make sure business owners like him know in advanced that an expert is available to provide those kinds of services.
The bill also calls for ADA experts to be licensed with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Currently, there are no regulations governing ADA "experts."
Florida is among the top states for ADA lawsuits and serial filers. Between January 1, 2012 and November 16, 2016 5839 ADA lawsuits were filed in Florida.