A Maricopa County Judge recently dismissed more than 1,700 frivolous lawsuits filed based on alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID) has targeted more a thousand Arizona businesses, filing copy-and-paste lawsuits which alleged that the businesses’ parking lots did not comply with regulations related to persons with disabilities.
The Arizona Attorney General moved to have the consolidated lawsuits dismissed after AID flooded the court system with disability lawsuits for over a year. While the lawsuits may have resulted in increased compliance with regulations relating to access for the disabled, it may also have been a tactic used to obtain settlements that benefited the attorneys filing the lawsuits.
The Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss based on a lack of standing because AID did not allege a distinct and palpable injury. AID did not allege that anyone with a disability had actually attempted to patronize these businesses, encountered any barriers, and had disabilities that were incompatible with such barriers. Rather, AID merely alleged that those with disabilities are deterred from visiting these businesses. After filing over 1,700 lawsuits, AID allegedly informed the Maricopa County Court that they had planned to file 8,000 more lawsuits before the state intervened and put an end to the wave of lawsuits filed against Arizona businesses.
The Attorney General’s office intends to file a motion for sanction against AID, which has been sanctioned by other courts previously.
AID sought damages and attorneys’ fees for these violations, some of which were easily fixable. The Arizona state House recently approved a bill that would curb the ability of disabled persons to sue businesses for these violations. The bill would give businesses at least 30 days to fix violations before a lawsuit could be brought against them. This bill would make it more difficult for disabled persons to bring a lawsuit against a business that violates the ADA, but it would limit frivolous lawsuits. Rather than using the court system as a threat to attempt to obtain settlements, a lawsuit would be a last resort after a business had failed to take action to come into compliance.