The CRA discusses ADA lawsuit reform

Government Affairs

The CRA gathered local restaurants in San Diego recently for a Restaurant Roundtable discussion on the federal application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the continued trend for “gotcha” lawsuits against restaurants. They have been focused on business websites, even though no individual’s access to an establishment was limited or where there was no harm to any individual.

Of course, the CRA and restaurant community fully support the ADA and full access for all individuals, but dubious lawsuits continue to hit businesses and undermine the very spirit of the landmark ADA. The CRA, joined by the National Restaurant Association, gathered the roundtable to discuss these issues with the offices of Senator Feinstein and House of Representative members Walters and Peters.

While the CRA has successfully pushed incremental changes to California’s application of the ADA, enterprising attorneys have shifted many of their cases to federal courts, where those California law changes are not in play. Restaurants shared their experiences of predatory lawsuits and encouraged the lawmakers to continue the push for federal ADA reform when a new Congress is constituted in January.

Senator Feinstein has been a champion in leading the cause for rational reform and is a powerful member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will play a decisive role in this effort. House members Peters and Walters also remain strong supporters of reform efforts at the federal level.

A relatively new, and rapidly expanding, area of ADA lawsuits regards business websites. The ADA precedes the internet and, as a result, there are no laws or federal guidelines on how websites can become ADA compliant. This has opened up many businesses to allegations of ADA non-compliance based on accessibility of websites for hearing- and visually-impaired individuals. Whether lawsuits are brought regarding websites or brick and mortar restaurants, many attorneys have shifted their “playing field” to what is perceived as the more friendly federal courts that lack California’s reasonable reforms.

The CRA will continue to partner with the National Restaurant Association and the California Congressional delegation to push for reasonable ADA reform at the federal level. In the meantime, please read this opinion editorial from the Times of San Diego on the topic authored by the CRA and the National Restaurant Association and some additional resources to help with website ADA compliance.