How many judges does it take to rule that shopping center tenants
are not liable for ADA violations in common areas?
This article was first published in the October 2015 issue of the California State Bar’s Real Property Law Section E-Bulletin.
Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) “to provide clear, strong consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities” in employment, public accommodations, transportation and federal, state and local government services. 42 U.S.C.§12101(b)(2). Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations including shopping centers, theaters, arenas, restaurants, health clubs, hotels, banks, public space in office buildings, and nearly every manner of retail premises. Virtually every leased location which serves the general public and is engaged in commerce is subject to the accessibility requirements of the ADA.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (“ADAAG”) were developed in the early 1990s by the Access Board and implemented by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the federal agency responsible for enforcing the ADA. The ADAAG Standards were amended effective March 15, 2012.
The DOJ has been actively investigating national retailers for ADA compliance. In addition to voluntary compliance and federal enforcement, the ADA contemplates that private litigants will enforce ADA compliance. To that end, federal court filings demonstrate that since 2000, more than 20,000 ADA private lawsuits have been filed in the federal courts. Over 8,000 ADA lawsuits have been filed in California’s federal district courts during this time period. From September 2012 through December 2013, 627 federal cases, 2,078 state cases and 342 demand letters were submitted to the California Commission on Disability Access. See 2013 Annual Report to the California State Legislative in Compliance with Government Code Sections 8299.07(a) and 8299.08(d). The overwhelming majority of these ADA lawsuits and compliance demands involved owners and tenants of leased properties. Continue ›