Superior Court Dismisses ADA Lawsuits
Business owners gain relief from a spate of lawsuits alleging violations of the ADA and Arizona's disabilities law.
More than 1,000 lawsuits filed against businesses by a
disability advocacy group were dismissed on February 17, 2017, by a Maricopa
County Superior Court judge. The Arizona Attorney General requested dismissal of
the consolidated cases, describing the complaints as identical “frivolous
lawsuits filed by a serial litigator.”
Attorney General Mark Brnovich stated, “Arizona is not going to tolerate serial
litigators who try to shake down small, hardworking businesses by exploiting the
Any business seeking recovery of attorneys’ fees and
costs for fighting the lawsuit must file an application with Judge David
Talamante within a short period to be determined.
There is still a potential that the plaintiffs in the
ADA lawsuits, Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID), will appeal the
dismissals to a higher court.
AID sued thousands of Maricopa County businesses in
2016, alleging generally that each business violated the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA). The
ADA and AzDA essentially require businesses that are open to the public - e.g.,
restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, retail merchants and others - to
accommodate disabled people.
The laws require that, among other things, businesses
a certain number of accessible parking spots;
some percentage of accessible parking spots that are van
spaces between parking spots that meet stated
the posting of certain signs, posted at a specific
Given these requirements, the AID lawsuits frequently
targeted minor parking lot violations, such as lack of proper signage, the signs
being an inch or two too low, or the spaces not being properly marked.
While meeting the accessibility requirements may be
inexpensive and fairly easy, the problem for businesses has been that the laws
allow prevailing plaintiffs to recover their attorneys’ fees from the violator.
The AID lawsuits, all filed by plaintiffs’ attorney Peter Strojnik, demanded
that the generally alleged violation be fixed and that the business pay $7,500
in attorneys’ fees. A media investigation revealed that the average AID
settlement was $3,900. Although many business owners considered the lawsuits to
be shakedowns, a number of them settled out of court to avoid the cost of a
AID’s disability access lawsuits were part of a wave of
these types of serial lawsuits aimed at alleged disability accessibility
violations involving pool and spa lifts, bar and restaurant interiors,
restrooms, etc. Mr. Strojnik told The Economist that 95% of Arizona businesses
are not in full compliance with the hundreds of pages of technical requirements.
Attorney General Intervention. In August 2016, the Arizona Attorney General moved to
intervene in one of the cases and then moved to consolidate, arguing that AID’s
flood of lawsuits is “part of a concerted effort to improperly use the judicial
system for its own enrichment” and calling the lawsuits a “systemic abuse of the
If you want to make sure your business is ADA compliant,
we suggest that you review the
2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and/or
consult with an experienced ADA compliance professional. Many of the fixes are
easy to accomplish; if they are not readily achievable, the law contains certain
Property owners who have received a demand letter or a
complaint regarding ADA accessibility likely should consult with legal counsel
about their rights and obligations.