Help may be on the way for property owners sued for alleged violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
As covered in a prior post, over the last couple of years, Florida has seen a big increase in lawsuits alleging ADA violations. These cases are often filed by “serial” filers – plaintiffs that have each filed dozens or even hundreds of these kinds of lawsuits. The growing number of these lawsuits in Florida has been covered extensively by the national and local media (see, for example, here and here).
In its most recent session, the Florida legislature enacted a bill that will give property owners some new options for fighting these suits. The bill allows property owners to register a remediation plan or certificate of conformity with the ADA with Florida’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation (“DBPR”). Both the plan and certificate must be done by a qualified expert, and the certificate is valid for 3 years. The DBPR is tasked with creating an online registry of these plans and certificates. The bill requires a court hearing an ADA lawsuit to consider a remediation plan or certificate of conformity in deciding whether the plaintiff filed the lawsuit in good faith or is entitled to recover his or her attorneys’ fees from the property owner. As of the time of this post, Florida’s governor has not yet signed the bill into law.
Property owners may get relief at the federal level too, where a bill is currently working its way through the House of Representatives. The ADA Lawsuit Clarification Act of 2017 would require that before filing an ADA lawsuit, a plaintiff must give notice to the property owner of the alleged defects. The owner would then get 60 days to provide a plan for remediation and 120 days to fix the alleged defects.
The Florida bill has not yet been signed into law and the federal bill is still in the House, so none of this legislative relief is available yet to property owners. But, at least in Florida, property owners may soon have a new tool for defending ADA suits.