Recent Rise in ADA Lawsuits Targets Boston Hospitality Businesses

In recent weeks, a single plaintiff has filed more than 25 lawsuits in federal district court in Boston, primarily against restaurants and bars in Boston, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. This large-scale targeted litigation involves a “tester” who visits numerous businesses that are open to the public (and are therefore subject to the accessibility requirements of Title III of the ADA). The “tester” identifies and documents alleged violations of the ADA for the sole purpose of filing a lawsuit.

Because the ADA allows prevailing plaintiffs to recover their attorneys’ fees, it tends to attract serial lawsuits. Even though the plaintiffs may not seek damages, they do seek costs of removing the barriers and reimbursing their attorneys’ fees. These lawsuits also seek declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order that the facility owner remove all physical barriers to access such that the space is “readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities to the extent required by the ADA.”  Common barriers include an inaccessible entrance with steps and no ramp, lack of accessible restrooms, lack of accessible counters or tables, and lack of accessible parking.

Prince Lobel has had significant experience representing hospitality clients and others faced with ADA lawsuits over accessibility issues.  Businesses that have not yet been targeted may be able to reduce the likelihood of an ADA lawsuit by performing an accessibility survey and addressing any barriers that may exist.  In addition, there may be ways to shift risk by way of leases or construction agreements, as well as through insurance coverage.

If you have concerns about ADA accessibility lawsuits or would like to learn more about how accessibility requirements may affect your business, please contact Prince Lobel partners, William F. Burke at 617-456-8025 / wburke@princelobel.com, or Diane R. Rubin at 617-456-8042 / drubin@princelobel.com.