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Arizona Businesses: Beware of Serial ADA Plaintiffs

By Adam B. Merrill

A few ambitious lawyers in Arizona have been hitting commercial property owners and tenants with lawsuits for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically alleging that the properties have certain barriers that restrict access for disabled individuals. Something as seemingly inconspicuous as the height of a parking lot handicap accessibility sign could constitute a violation and form the basis of a lawsuit.

In the past few months alone, more than 500 Arizona businesses have been sued under the ADA for an assortment of accessibility violations, most commonly for lack of compliance with the ADA’s standards for parking lots and bathrooms.

One particular firm has been filing lawsuits against Arizona companies for parking lot violations. In most instances, the lawsuits focus on whether the business has sufficient handicapped designated parking spaces, and whether the location, dimension, and signage for those spaces are up to the ADA’s accessibility standards. In many of these lawsuits, the only violation alleged is that one or more of the parking lot signs is posted a few inches lower than what is set forth in the statute.

Two particular individuals are most often bringing lawsuits against Arizona restaurants and bars for bathroom accessibility and other violations. In most instances, the lawsuits focus on the height and placement of urinals, mirrors, soap and toilet paper dispensers, and grab bars. The plaintiffs also commonly object to the height of service counters and lack of seating for those with disabilities.

Arizona businesses with facilities not meeting ADA accessibility requirements, risk an ADA claim by affected patrons. While there is a “safe harbor” provision in the ADA for businesses complying with earlier ADA standards, it seldom applies.

Businesses in doubt about ADA accessibility compliance should consider hiring an ADA compliance specialist or attorney to inspect the premises and promptly make any necessary changes.