No one likes getting sued. Period. And if you think the plaintiffs are just pursuing a hustle it can make you even angrier. That’s how restaurant owners and landlords often feel about being sued by disabled plaintiffs — especially if they are serial plaintiffs. That is, if they’ve sued other restaurants — and gotten their legal fees paid by the defendants — because the front steps are too high, or the bathroom is downstairs, or the tables are too low, or whatever violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I get it. But the fact is Congress has recognized accessibility to public accommodations as a civil right like freedom from racial discrimination or sexual harassment. The fact that the restaurant operator might not have had anything to do with constructing the building doesn’t diminish that right. Congress made that policy decision, not the disabled plaintiffs or their lawyers. Now it’s another cost of doing business.
But if there’s good news here for the defendants, it is that the cost to settle, that is, paying for an entrance ramp or other renovations, even with the plaintiff’s legal fees, can be less than the cost to fight the case — and the sooner you can settle, the less you will have to pay the plaintiff’s lawyer, not to mention your own lawyer.
So, when next you sign a restaurant or store lease, whether you are the landlord or the tenant, now you know to allocate the risk of ADA compliance and provide for the right insurance.
If you have problems with your real estate in New York, call Andrew Weltchek.