On May 31 the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Safety held a public hearing on ADA lawsuit reform legislation - Senate Bill 1346, An Act Relative to Reasonable Notice and Cure Standards to Protect Small Businesses. At the hearing, ICSC and the Massachusetts Restaurant Association testified as part of a panel to discuss the need for this important legislation.

SB 1346, sponsored by Senator Michael Moore (D-Worcester), is modeled after bipartisan federal legislation.  The bill addresses an issue numerous businesses open to the public have experienced, when unbeknownst to them, their property is in technical violation of the public accommodations statute. In many cases, these violations have occurred after a property has naturally settled after construction or other factors including the harsh New England weather. Unfortunately, certain attorneys and/or plaintiffs have built a practice of identifying technical, easily correctable violations (with assistance from Google Maps to identify, for example, parking lot striping errors), then threatening to sue or formally bring a suit against a property or business owner.  The main driver in these actions is forcing a monetary settlement that primarily benefits the attorney and not necessarily the disability community.   

This commonsense legislation is intended to give property owners a chance to address any alleged violation in a reasonable time frame. The bill focuses on dis-incentivizing drive-by lawsuits by giving property owners an opportunity to increase access. 

SB 1346 is narrowly focused and does not alter the fundamental purpose and intent of the laws designed to assist the disability community. The requirements of a written specific notice to the property owner or property manager, and up to 120 days for the property owner or manager to address the alleged violation is fair and will allow well-meaning business owners an opportunity to make the necessary corrections without being hit with thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees or damages. If a business fails to comply, all the current rights and remedies exist as they do today.

At ICSC urging, the following organizations submitted written testimony in support of the bill:  The Retail Association of Massachusetts (RAM), the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, MA NAIOP, Mass NFIB, the International Franchise Association (IFA), the Massachusetts Lodging Association, and Bloomin’ Brands. 

ICSC will continue to meet with members of the legislature to build support for SB 1346 during the 2017-2018 legislative session. For more information, please contact Stephen Burm at sburm@icsc.org.

Eastern Division State & Local Government Relations Manager Stephen Burm (right) testified along with ICSC P3 Private Sector Eastern Division Chair Peter Gori (middle) a retail and restaurant broker with the Boston office of Newmark Knight Frank, and Steve Clark (left), Director of Government Relations for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]