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ADA Building Access Lawsuits and SB 1608

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on October 11, 2010 7:11 AM

Suits between disabled patrons and business owners over building access are on the rise. Businesses that fail to comply with the standards promulgated by the American Disabilities Act can face costly litigation. ADA requires all businesses, big or small, to provide reasonable access to all disabled customers and clients. A growing problem is disabled individuals are discovering minor (or major) violations of the ADA and filing multiple lawsuits, regardless of whether he or she actually suffered harm from the violations.

ADA building access litigation is a real concern that business owners should be aware of. The approach should be comprehensive -- knowing what ADA regulations your business is in violation of, and also knowing your legal rights when a lawsuit is filed. The ADA recognizes the cost limitations of certain businesses, and also the nature of the clientele; but when a business is undergoing any type of renovation, special attention to the standards is important.

Compliance with ADA rules and regulations relating to public access and other aspects of the physical business is taken very seriously, and rightfully so. The Times quotes Margaret Johnson, Chairwoman for the Commission on Disabilities: "A grab bar placed a half inch out of compliance with the ADA standards may not seem like a lot to a business owner. But for a disabled person trying to get from a wheelchair to a toilet, it could mean the difference between getting on that seat or getting on the floor."

If a lawsuit is filed, using the protections outlined in SB 1608 should be an owner's first course of action. The two year-old bill was designed specifically to increase compliance with disability laws by giving business owners a chance to rectify the problem. Specifically, SB 1608 gives businesses accused of non-compliance a 90 day stay of the trial and a conference with the judge to try to resolve the dispute without the cost and time of litigation.

SB 1608 also requires that the property be inspected by a state specialist before filing suit, and that the defendants rights to the aforementioned stay and conference are attached to the suit. SB 1608 is a great resource to be aware, and take advantage of in the event of a lawsuit. Sometimes, knowledge really is power.

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