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House approves ADA amendment to protect businesses Zach Gibson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

House approves ADA amendment to protect businesses

Move addresses long-time problem of drive-by lawsuits

An amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act that would help protect businesses from “drive-by lawsuits” passed the House on Thursday, but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The ADA Education and Reform Act, or H.R. 620, reportedly passed on a 225-to-192 vote, according to The Washington Post.

The move was hailed by business advocates, who for years have been decrying abuses of the law, which is meant to ensure that the disabled have access to restaurants, stores and other public places.

Restaurants, for example, are often sued for ADA violations requiring monetary settlements, without giving them a chance to fix the problem.

Under the amendment, those who might sue businesses in federal court over an ADA violation would first be required to deliver a written notice to the business detailing how access was hampered, and allowing that business 60 days to come up with a plan to address the complaints, and another 60 days to take action.

Cicely Simpson, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, hailed passage of the bill in the House, saying, “Small businesses across the country, including restaurants, are being unfairly targeted by drive-by lawsuits alleging ADA violations for the sole purpose of extracting costly legal settlements and attorney’s fees. This common-sense legislation restores integrity to the ADA by improving access while simultaneously preventing well-meaning business owners from being victimized by abusive lawsuits.”

Advocates for the disabled, however, who staged protests in the House chamber during the vote, argued that the ADA amendment would remove incentives for businesses to comply with the law.

In a September letter to lawmakers, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, or CCD, opposed the amendment, saying it would shift the burden onto the person with the disability to determine the specific violation, give notice to the business, and give the business a lengthy period to correct the problem.

“We know of no other law that outlaws discrimination but permits entities to discriminate with impunity until victims experience that discrimination and educate the entities perpetrating it about their obligations not to discriminate,” said the CCD, which represents 236 organizations for the disabled.

“Such a regime is absurd, and would make people with disabilities second-class citizens.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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