The fight over the enforcement of the public accommodation requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Arizonans with Disabilities Act (“AzDA”) continues to heat up and is far from over. Last Friday, Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities - Foundation ("AID"), the organization which has been the subject of several investigative reports by the news media, filed complaints on over 9,000 business locations with the Arizona Attorney General's Office alleging violations of the ADA and AzDA. Such action comes after the Attorney General intervened in the oldest ADA state court case filed by AID and consolidated over 1,100 pending state court cases into one action. The State had acted to redress complaints from businesses over the serial litigation filed by AID, many of which seek thousands of dollars to settle allegations stemming from potentially improper parking signage. AID also has sent “warning notices” to thousands of businesses for alleged exterior equal access barriers, claiming such violations are indicators of likely interior ADA violations for which it can also seek redress.
AID filed these complaints with the Attorney General, in its words, “to demonstrate the Attorney General's Office's failure to investigate or enforce compliance with the ADA on a large scale for many years.” AID alleges that a recent survey conducted by the organization show that “less than 5% of public accommodations in the county are in compliance with the ADA -- just as to external ADA violations.” AID has to date filed close to 2,000 ADA complaints in state and federal court. The move by AID also appears to be an end run around the Arizona Superior Court’s Order in the consolidated action directing AID not to file any new complaints raising substantially the same legal issues as the consolidated cases, without leave of the court. If you are currently involved in litigation against AID and the matter is pending in the Arizona Superior Court, you should be aware that all such cases have been consolidated into one case, which has a number of legal ramifications for your pending case.
In addition to forcing thousands of settlements and inundating the Attorney General’s office with accessibility complaints, AID also has sued several businesses that entered into settlement agreements with the organization, alleging that the businesses have not fully complied with the terms of their settlement agreements. As breach of contract actions, these new lawsuits seek attorneys’ fees and costs.
The battle to address serial ADA plaintiffs also is active in the legislature. Several proposals to amend the accessibility statutes as they pertain to the plaintiffs who file thousands of cases seeking financial recovery are currently under discussion on both the state and federal level.
If you are served with a complaint filed with the Attorney General or with the court or receive a notice or warning letter, please contact us immediately as there are often short deadlines associated with the filings. We also encourage you to be proactive by reviewing your accessibility compliance and engaging in the legislative process. We can assist in facilitating your participation in the legislative process and helping you evaluate your own compliance with the ADA and AzDA. Additionally, if you have entered into a settlement agreement, and have any questions about compliance, please reach out to us. Our ADA defense team is highly skilled, efficient, and able to advise and answer questions at any stage of the process.