Bill to Slow ‘Drive-By Lawsuits’ Passes U.S. House

Congress weighs ADA amendment as Title III lawsuits proliferate in federal courts

A congressional bill that aims to curb so-called “drive-by lawsuits” under Title III passed the House of Representatives on Feb. 15 and is on its way to the Senate, proposing an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act intends to give businesses more leeway in fixing public accommodation violations on their premises.

If signed into law, potential plaintiffs would have to give businesses notices of possible Title III violations and provide them a chance to remedy them before filing a lawsuit. Regardless of whether the bill ultimately succeeds, it calls attention to a growing segment of ADA litigation that often takes businesses by surprise. Title III of the ADA carries accessibility requirements that a range of businesses must follow. Many of these include specifications such as the size and location of handicapped parking spaces and various required signage. In recent years, it has become more common for a plaintiff to file scores of lawsuits against businesses alleging Title III noncompliance, many of which get referred to as “drive-by lawsuits” based on the notion that plaintiffs might not have actually visited the businesses they’re suing.

More than 7,600 Title III lawsuits were filed in federal courts across the U.S. last year, which is nearly triple what courts saw in 2013. While a far cry from the thousands of filings in California, Florida and New York last year, Colorado saw 215 Title III suits in 2017, more than double its total from 2016.

Although it’s unclear what percentage of these filings fit the description of a drive-by suit, businesses blame that subset of Title III litigation, in part, for the rising total in recent years.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the February 26, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.