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It Begins: Arizona Restaurants/Bars Must Prepare for Tidal Wave of ADA Lawsuits

Wheelchair #2

By: Lindsay G. Leavitt

Arizona is quickly joining the ranks of California, New York and Texas as a hotbed for lawsuits arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Last month, I blogged about (and have personally defended numerous hotel owners against) lawsuits filed by Theresa Brooke, a wheelchair bound Arizona woman who has sued more than 150 Arizona hotel owners for failing to provide wheelchair accessible pool lifts. Now, it appears another disabled serial plaintiff has emerged.

Santiago Abreu, a wheelchair bound individual who is a resident of Florida, has begun filing lawsuits against Phoenix-area restaurants alleging an assortment of ADA violations. Mr. Abreu is a self-admitted “tester,” which is a disabled person who travels around the country suing businesses open to the public that do not fully comply with the ADA. Some testers have filed thousands of lawsuits around the country.

Mr. Abreu has filed lawsuits against a number of well-known restaurants/bars in the greater Phoenix area, including Sanctuary Resort & Spa and Ra Sushi. Most of the alleged violations arise in the bar area and restrooms. For example, Mr. Abreu has alleged that the bar service counters are not wheelchair accessible and that certain elements of the restrooms (e.g., stalls, sinks and urinals) violate the ADA.

The violations alleged by Mr. Abreu do not appear to be quick or inexpensive to fix. Businesses must bring their buildings in compliance with the ADA only if it is “readily achievable” to do so. The ADA defines readily achievable as “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” It is no surprise that plaintiffs and defendants often disagree on (and litigate) whether certain fixes are “readily achievable.”

A business facing a lawsuit brought by a “tester” like Mr. Abreu has several options to consider. The first step, however, is to seek the assistance of an experienced ADA compliance attorney.

Leavitt_Lindsay_99x135px_webLindsay 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.

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