Sen. Jeff Flake is set to introduce a new bill that would give businesses sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act a cure period to fix alleged issues before a lawsuit could be filed.
In an interview with ABC15, Arizona’s Republican Senator said he will introduce the bill this week.
“We’re trying to get people to comply with the law and actually do something good instead of just line the pockets of these trolls,” Flake said. “The goal of this legislation is to actually give a businesses a chance to fix the problem.”
The proposed bill would give businesses 120 days to fix violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) before a lawsuit could be filed, Flake said.
Flake introduced the bill after a series of ABC15 investigative reports that exposed an “advocacy” group flooding the Phoenix area with lawsuits alleging violations in business parking lots.
Flake called the station’s reports a “great service to the public.”
Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID) has filed more than 1,700 lawsuits since mid-February. In many cases, the lawsuits alleged signage issues and came with initial settlement demands of $7,500.
AID has become the most prolific filer of ADA lawsuits in the country. Across the nation, the federal court system has seen an increase of ADA lawsuits of more than 150 percent.
AID attorneys said they are performing a public service with their lawsuits by forcing businesses to comply. On its website, AID calls itself "civil rights champions" and has been given non-profit status by the IRS.
“It’s a racket,” Flake said. “What they are doing is abusing the law. If you talk to genuine disability groups and those who genuinely concerned with access for the disabled, they decry these tactics and say they guys are not representing us.”
Several disability-rights organizations with deep roots in Arizona said they don’t condone or support AID’s serial litigation. However, leaders for some of the groups disagree about whether they would support an attempt to change the ADA.
“We do feel that type of high-frequency lawsuit filing is giving the ADA a bad name,” said Phil Pangrazio, executive director for Ability 360. “But anything where we are talking about changing the ADA, or weakening it, I think we are going in the wrong direction.”
A similar bill (HR 3765) to Flake’s proposal is also moving through Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1991 and later amended in 2010. It’s a federal law, but Arizona also has a state version.
Unlike most ADA serial litigants, AID is filing their cases in state court, which has cheaper filing fees. Flake said that means changes also need to be made to Arizona’s version of the ADA law.
State Sen. John Kavanagh has told ABC15 he will introduce a bill when the next legislative session begins in January.