Over the last couple of years, Florida has seen a proliferation of lawsuits alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Many of the cases are filed by "serial" filers – plaintiffs that have each filed dozens or even hundreds of lawsuits against various properties. The growing number of these lawsuits in Florida has been covered extensively by the national and local media (see, for example, here and here).
So what do you do when you're sued for having a property alleged to be out of compliance with the ADA? In some instances, it could make sense to litigate and try and defend against the allegations. Some properties are exempt from ADA compliance and some kinds of modifications don't need to be made, even if the plaintiff alleges that they do. Sometimes allegations about particular violations are just wrong. In many cases, just as in all lawsuits, a settlement may be the most cost-effective option. Defending an ADA Title III case can be expensive. Figuring out whether there are violations of the ADA may require the assistance of an ADA compliance expert. If you choose to litigate and lose, the court may order the property owner to pay all or some of the plaintiff's attorneys' fees.
Owners with tenants, such as shopping centers, should review their leases to see how they treat ADA compliance responsibility. While the landlord is ultimately responsible for ADA compliance, commercial leases may re-allocate that responsibility to tenants. Those tenants are often sued along with their landlord.
Because these suits are being filed by the dozens each day in Florida, commercial property owners, and especially owners of larger public sites like hotels and shopping centers, should review whether their properties are in compliance. Some preemptive work could prevent an otherwise inevitable lawsuit.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.