By: Lindsay Leavitt
If Phoenix-area business owners don’t already know who David Ritzenthaler is, they soon will. The Scottsdale resident has sued more than 200 local businesses and landlords for alleged parking lot violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And he is just getting warmed up—I anticipate that he could file up to 10,000 ADA lawsuits within the next six months. Read my earlier blogs about Mr. Ritzenthaler’s lawsuits here and here.
There is a method to Mr. Ritzenthaler’s madness—he is suing businesses zip code by zip code. He started in Scottsdale and now is working his way through central Phoenix. I have personally represented more than two dozen business owners who have been sued by Mr. Ritzenthaler and have become very familiar with Mr. Ritzenthaler (and his attorney’s) M.O.
The ADA is a complex and incredibly dense Federal law. However, Mr. Ritzenthaler’s lawsuits only allege violations of the provisions addressing parking lots. Specifically, Mr. Ritzenthaler (and his attorney) are looking at the number, location and dimensions of the lot’s accessible spaces as well as whether those spaces have the proper signage outlined in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
Many of my clients have been lulled into a false sense of security—believing that their properties were ADA compliant because their paving company, city building inspector, architect, etc. told them they were. The ADA is a civil rights law, not a building code. A property can still be noncompliant with the ADA even though it passed a government building inspection.
Phoenix-area business owners who have not yet been sued should consult with a knowledgeable attorney and make sure they take proactive steps to avoid getting caught in Mr. Ritzenthaler’s drive-by litigation tactics.
Lindsay G. Leavitt is a business litigation and employment law attorney at Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, P.L.C. He regularly represents businesses in employment-related disputes and provides advice on preventative measures.