Another Shakedown ADA Lawsuit Against a California Business Shows the Need for Reform

Tom Scott
CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

Just ask small businessman Jerry Brannon in Stockton.  He recently got sued by Scott Johnson for $38,000 for non-compliance with the Americans With Disability Act. However, instead of settling, Mr. Brannon has decided to fight. He plans to spend up to $50,000 fighting this lawsuit.

According to a television news report, “Scott Johnson has made legal claims against many business owners in the Sacramento area, claiming he’s suffered because his disability won’t allow him to fully access their stores and restaurants.”

Brannon said Johnson has “taken the ADA and made a business out of it.”

According to the news report, Johnson has been linked to thousands of lawsuits. 

I applaud Mr. Brannon on multiple fronts. This is not going to stop until the federal and state governments seriously pass legislation to stop these forms of lawsuit abuse. In 2008, the California State Legislature attempted to deal with the issue with SB 1608, which did not have the desired outcome. In 2012, the California State Legislature again attempted to find a way to stop the abuse with SB 1186 and this has also failed to stem the tide of abuse. The federal government has had a couple of bills related to ADA shakedowns lawsuits, but they have never been passed.

So here we are in 2014 and the lawsuits keep rolling. From Lake Tahoe to the Central Valley, we continue to see ADA lawsuits against small businesses, and there appears to be no end in sight. Interesting fact: there are more than 3.5 million small businesses in the state of California but only 500 Certified Access Specialists. How is every small business supposed to stay up to date when there aren’t enough access specialists?

When a business has to close due to an ADA shakedown lawsuit, no one benefits. Employees lose their jobs and governments lose revenue from employment property taxes. Who benefits from that scenario? Not even the disabled will benefit as everyone will simply have to travel further for those services.

I know there will be ADA legislation in California in the coming year and I am hopeful that with the changes in the U.S. Senate reform may be easier to pass in Washington. We, as a nation, need something to happen to help curb this abuse. It would behoove our legislators to find a reasonable compromise. A 120-day corrective action period at the state and federal level would stop these predators in their tracks. Let’s do it. Enough rearranging of deck chairs – let’s find a real solution.

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