At Hotel Industry’s Urging, Texas Legislature Takes Up ADA Drive-by Lawsuit Reform
By Brian Sullivan, THLA Associate General Counsel
Drive-by ADA lawsuits are a recurring problem for businesses across the nation. Many plaintiffs make serial threats against hotels, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation for alleged ADA violations.
Thousands of businesses are sued or receive demand letters threatening lawsuits unless they receive settlement for minor, easily correctable ADA infractions. Many businesses don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to challenge these lawsuits and often decide to settle out of court.
House Bill 1463 by Representative John Smithee and identical companion Senate Bill 827 by Senator Kel Seliger offer new requirements for providing notice of claims under the ADA.
The legislation provides that before filing a lawsuit alleging a business's failure to comply with applicable design, construction, technical, or other standards required by the ADA (including compliance with website accessibility guidelines), the claimant must give at least 150 days notice to the business of his/her intent to file the claim.
Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) in the United States Congress recommended this “notice and cure” period become federal law.. Congressman Poe’s legislation, the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017” (H.R. 620), contains similar language to the state bills.Congressman Poe’s bill states, however, that a business operator must respond to any written notice of ADA violations within 60 days outlining improvements to be made to remove the defect(s) and in no more than 120 days promises to make substantial progress toward remedying the ADA defect(s) before being subject to suit.
These proposals come after hoteliers and other business operators across the country have experienced a rise in ADA-related litigation filed by plaintiff’s attorneys acting beyond the original spirit of the law. Such “notice and cure” reforms will help restore the original purpose of the ADA: to provide access and accommodation to disabled citizens, not providing fertile ground for aggressive attorneys attempting to force fast settlements.
THLA is pleased to support these important reforms.