By Steven Totten | Phoenix Business Journal
The recent controversy surrounding Valley businesses, a recently formed nonprofit and a number of lawsuits is seeing no signs of slowing.
Several businesses in metro Phoenix — including mom-and-pop shops, Paradise Valley Mall and CVS Pharmacy — have found lawsuit notices in their mailboxes from Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities, a recently formed nonprofit that provides amenities to people with disabilities that aren’t covered by insurance caps.
The current trend is for AID to send “warning” letters to property owners, informing them of ADA violations. Property owners often mistake these letters as opportunities to correct violations before a lawsuit is filed. However, each letter usually includes a personalized email address or Website where a specified payment can be made. In other words, the only opportunity being offered is when to pay, before or after the lawsuit is filed.
Early attempts to change the law in Arizona would require notice of a violation and an opportunity to correct the violation before a lawsuit could be filed. California recently passed legislation exempting small business owners (businesses with fewer than 50 employees) from having to pay statutory damages if they correct an ADA violation within 15 days. Future changes to the law in Arizona may give property owners some form of grace period to correct a violation and avoid damages, but property owners should know for the foreseeable future, these mass ADA lawsuits will continue.
While there can be defenses to ADA lawsuits, the best defense is a good offense. Property owners should inspect their property and determine whether any ADA compliance issues should be addressed and whether the allegations contained in any notice or lawsuit are accurate.
~ Adam Martinez