Title III of the ADA allows customers and visitors to sue businesses and landlords for disability discrimination in court. The alleged violations range from everything from parking lot slope to website design. What should you do if you’ve been sued under Title III of the ADA?
- Take a deep breath.
Title III ADA cases are very seldom “bet the business” size cases. They can generally be resolved through settlement negotiations or court motions without threatening continued operation of the business. But you need to take action as soon as you’re aware of the lawsuit or threatened lawsuit.
- Contact an experienced ADA defense attorney.
Like many areas of the law, the ADA is very specialized, and there are significant advantages to dealing with a lawyer experienced in this particular field. A knowledgeable lawyer will not need to spend client time or money researching the law. He or she will also know the major players in this field, including plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ lawyers. And perhaps most importantly, he or she will know how much the case is worth based on experience handling dozens or hundreds of similar cases in the past.
- Respond to the Complaint.
If you have been named in an ADA lawsuit (or any lawsuit), you have a certain number of days from service of the complaint to file a formal response on the record. For federal cases, that number is 21 days. For state court cases, that number if 30 days in California. Most commonly, ADA defendants file an answer to the complaint, although motions to dismiss or other responses can be filed if there are strong defenses or strategic reasons for such a response.
- Evaluate the legitimacy of the claims.
Now it’s time to take a deeper dive into the nature of the claims and whether they have merit. This generally involves an inspection of the property or website that the plaintiff alleges to violate the law and a possible investigation of the plaintiff’s interactions with employees of the business. The goal is to figure out if and how much the claims are accurate and provable and what possible defenses might apply. For example, older properties are subject to a lower standard of ADA compliance than newer properties based on the date of construction or last alteration.
- Resolve the lawsuit.
Once you and your attorney have a solid assessment of the legitimacy of the claims and how much if anything the case is worth, it’s time to put together a strategy for resolving the lawsuit and getting on with business. This could involve settlement if the claims against you have merit, or a motion for summary judgement against the plaintiff to have the court dismiss the case if you have evidence to the contrary. Certain improvements might be needed to the property or website and a payment to settle the case might be required depending on the facts. Ultimately, the lawsuit will be resolved and you will almost certainly be able to carry on with business.
For ADA defense representation or further information, please contact the author, Stuart K. Tubis at email@example.com.
Stuart Tubis is a lawyer at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP and a member of JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group. Stu counsels businesses on the full spectrum of ADA compliance issues and represents their interests in civil litigation and Department of Justice investigations. He has a background in technology, which helps in resolving the growing area of website accessibility issues. Contact Stuart Tubis at 415.984.9622 or STubis@jmbm.com.