Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed HB 727, ICSC-supported ADA lawsuit reform legislation, into law. The bill passed the Florida Legislature in early May.
The measure requires the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to establish a program to provide for the licensure of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) experts and authorizes the experts to advise and provide certain inspections for places of public accommodation relating to the ADA. $155,000 was appropriated in the FY2017-18 budget to support establishment of the program, with another $5,000 in recurring program funding. According to the Department, qualified experts would include engineers, contractors, building inspectors, etc. who may apply to the Department to provide the inspections and remediation plans.
For cases alleging violation of ADA, the court would be required to consider remediation by owners in determining if the lawsuit was filed in good faith and if the plaintiff is entitled to attorney fees. Florida was ranked second in the nation for number of ADA Title III federal lawsuits filed in 2016 in study by Seyfarth Shaw LLP.
In Massachusetts, following a hearing in May at which ICSC testified in support of legislation aimed at curbing drive-by ADA lawsuits, the state’s Joint Committee on Public Safety favorably reported SB 1346 out of committee. The bill requires would-be plaintiffs to provide a written specific notice to the property owner or manager and up to 120 days for the property owner or manager to address the alleged ADA violation. The bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Ways & Means, the next step in the legislative process. As the legislature prepares to wind down for summer break, it is unlikely the legislation will see further action until 2018, when the second year of the two-year legislative session begins.
Similar legislation has been introduced in Ohio. HB 271 would require a notice of the alleged accessibility law violation be provided before any civil action is filed and allow a property owner to promptly respond and, if needed, correct the accessibility oversight. The legislation has 18 cosponsors and has been assigned to the House Civil Justice Committee where hearings are expected to take place in the fall.