By: Lindsay Leavitt
Arizona has quickly become ground-zero for lawsuits arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Previously, I blogged here and here about two other serial plaintiffs who had filed more than 200 lawsuits against Arizona hotels, restaurants, bars and other places of public accommodation, alleging an assortment of ADA violations. Right when those lawsuits were beginning to slow and business owners started breathing sighs of relief, another serial plaintiff has emerged.
On February 16, 2016, David Ritzenthaler filed more than 50 lawsuits against local Arizona businesses alleging that their parking lots violate the ADA. Specifically, Mr. Ritzenthaler alleges that these businesses have either an inadequate number of handicapped parking spaces, insufficient signage and/or insufficient disbursement of handicapped parking spaces.
The ADA was enacted in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new regulations under the ADA in 2010. The regulations include the new 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, outlining minimum accessibility requirements for buildings and facilities.
Both commercial facilities and public accommodations must follow the 2010 standards for new construction and alterations.
What about older facilities and parking lots? Fortunately, there is a “safe harbor” provision for features that already comply with the 1991 standards, but may not meet the new 2010 standards. These older facilities and accompanying parking lots do not need to modify their parking lots until the lot undergoes a planned alteration (re-striping, re-surfacing, etc.) after March 15, 2012. If the lot is altered after that time, it will then need to be brought into compliance with the 2010 standards, to the maximum extent feasible.
A business facing a lawsuit brought by a serial plaintiff, such as Mr. Ritzenthaler, has several options to consider. The first step, however, is to seek the assistance of an experienced ADA compliance attorney.
Lindsay G. Leavitt is a business litigation and employment law attorney at Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, P.L.C. He regularly represents businesses in ADA compliance related disputes and provides advice on preventative measures.