Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Feeling Guilty? "Suiting" Up for Battle Isn't Always the Best ADA Strategy

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Feeling Guilty? "Suiting" Up for Battle Isn't Always the Best ADA Strategy

Article excerpt

Florida seems to get hit with more than its fair share of Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits, which can be costly and time consuming. Many legal strategies exist to defend these suits, but one strategy saved time and money and greatly shortened the legal process for one of my owners.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

An ADA lawsuit was filed against us as property managers on behalf of the owners of a 24,000-sq. ft. shopping center. The suit listed 37 ADA violations, including ones involving an elevator and public restrooms of which we had neither. Clearly, this was a form lawsuit, but it still had to be defended.

Our landlord/tenant attorney advised us to plead guilty. At first we thought he was kidding, but his reasoning made sense.

Under the ADA, property owners are liable for the plaintiff's legal fees and expenses if they lose a case. Fortunately punitive damages don't exist in most cases. Law firm factories turning out hundreds of these suits each year are driven by fees they collect and payments they make to expert witnesses. The more legal filings, meetings and depositions--the higher the costs--the more income they receive. The probability of losing an ADA case is high: Plaintiffs must prove only one existing accessibility violation to win. A single violation is likely, considering compliance with building code is not a defense if a disabled person is unable to access the property.

By pleading guilty, further court filings weren't necessary. Our property owners spent their dollars correcting the violations instead of litigating the issues and then making corrections. …

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