“Retailers are prime targets of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) litigation,” Special Counsel Sarah Bell wrote in a recent article for Retail Minded. “This is because retailers, in particular, are businesses used by customers on a daily basis. Failing to comply with the ADA dramatically increases potential liability in – and the potential cost of – an ADA lawsuit.” 

What is the ADA?

Enacted in 1990, the ADA provides civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those afforded to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.

Specifically, the Act guarantees equal access and opportunities for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, recreational facilities, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

What Retailers Must Know About ADA Lawsuits

Since its enactment, the number of private ADA enforcement actions undertaken by the DOJ has skyrocketed. A violation of any one of the Act’s thousands of provisions can increase a retailer’s potential liability for either a private lawsuit or a DOJ enforcement action.

“ADA litigation is very expensive,” Bell explained, as “the Act provides for ‘reasonable’ attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party.” 

Moreover, a business defending an ADA suit will need to hire and pay its own counsel, design and pay for any required modifications, possibly pay plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees, and potentially indemnify its landlord or tenants. “Voluntary compliance is a far better choice,” Bell advised.

Bell also cautioned retailers to take heed of the most common ADA violations, which include non-compliant entryways, public restrooms and fitting rooms.