WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), who is sponsoring the ACCESS (ADA Compliance
for Customer Entry to Stores and Services) Act, will testify before the House
Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice today on behalf
of the bill he says will help stop plaintiffs’ lawyers from “trying to enrich
themselves on the backs of the disabled.”
The ACCESS Act, also
known as H.R 241, would require an aggrieved person to notify a business of an
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violation in writing and give the
business owner 60 days to provide the aggrieved individual a detailed description
of improvements to remedy the violation. Then, the owner would have 120 days to
remove the infraction. Failure to meet these conditions would be grounds to
further the lawsuit.
The ADA was enacted in
1990 by Congress, and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities
in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and
Calvert told the SE Texas Record that as a property owner
himself, he has had to deal with complaints from people who find minor
discrepancy in a building or in following the regulations; and instead of being
given time to correct the infraction, owners get slapped with lawsuits and
“lawyers get rich.”
“We all want to
have access (for) the disabled; we just don’t want to make this an excuse for
lawyers to sue small business owners,” he said. “Nobody is objecting to making
sure that we have access for the disabled.”
Calvert said some of the
infractions are very minor, like not having a sign in the right location or
neglecting to paint a line in the right way.
Instead of rushing to
file lawsuits, Calvert said business owners should be given an opportunity to
fix infractions and comply with the law.
In 2014, NBC Bay Area reported
that 651 ADA lawsuits had been filed in Texas since 2005.
“Small businesses are
the life-blood of our communities,” U.S. Rep.
Ted Poe (R-Texas) wrote in an editorial
last year. “The vast majority of them strive to
serve their customers to the best of their ability – relying on the ADA as
another tool to help ensure that customers with disabilities can enjoy the
services that they provide. However, despite their best attempts, certain
attorneys and their pool of serial plaintiffs look for minor, easily
correctable ADA infractions so they can file a lawsuit and make some cash.”
Operating under modest
budgets, Poe said many small businesses take a financial hit and often feel
backed into a corner.
“They have few choices: settle, pay fees that
match those of lengthy and expensive litigation, or spend time and
money to go through the legal process,” he said.
McKinney, director of communications for the American Tort Reform Association,
told the SE Texas Record that the
association is in full support of the bill.
realistically, being an election year and with the stranglehold that the trial
bar has on Senate Democrats generally, one can’t be particularly optimistic
about the bill," he said. "But certainly it is needed; the congressman is to be
said small businesses around the country are supportive of the bill because ADA
lawsuits “are spreading like kudzu all around the country now.”
Calvert said the issue
is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but just a common-sense solution to a
“This is supposed to
help people that are disabled, not help some attorney get his kids through
college,” he said
But he’s expecting
resistance from those “trying to enrich themselves on the backs of the
“I don’t think those
guys really give a hoot about the disabled; they care about their own bank
accounts,” he said.
Calvert has never had a
complaint from disabled groups about being given a chance to fix infractions.
In fact, people with disabilities want to get the problem fixed to make sure
they get access, he said.
“This is the kind of
thing that is common-sense stuff, and I think we need to get this passed as
soon as possible, he said.