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New law eases ADA fixes, deters unscrupulous attorneys

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Now that the Legislature has adjourned sine die for the year, we thank the lawmakers and other public officials who helped advance the priorities of the Arizona business community. We also highlight the advocacy work of other business organizations at the Legislature this year, as our unified voice helped pass several of our priority pro-business measures and defeat those that would have been harmful to Arizona business and the economy.

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce public affairs team found success this year on several priority measures, including reforming the state’s initiative process, passing a fiscally prudent state budget while providing resources to the K-12 and university systems and passing responsible tax policy measures that continue to promote regional economic growth.

Jaime Molera

Jaime Molera

Included in these wins for the business community was a much-needed reform to the way minor complaints about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are handled by the court system and rectified by businesses.

During the past year, Arizona businesses of all sizes were targeted by unscrupulous attorneys filing ADA lawsuits. While the chamber encourages all businesses to comply with ADA requirements, many of these lawsuits were not focused on ADA compliance, but were attempts to extort money from business owners with often very minor ADA violations.

On April 18, Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB1406, a common-sense measure supported by the chamber and others which helps protect businesses by setting a framework for accepting ADA complaints, achieving required ADA compliance and limiting the ability of vexatious attorneys to exploit the system for pure financial gain.

The law helps ensure civil actions filed based on ADA violations are genuine by requiring that the person subjected to the ADA discrimination pursues the action, agrees with all of the allegations and has not been promised anything of value in exchange for filing.

SB1406 also allows the court to stay an ADA action if the aggrieved person or attorney is a vexatious litigant or there are multiple civil actions that involve the same plaintiff or attorney that should be consolidated. The measure additionally allows the court to impose additional penalties if the court determines the primary purpose for bringing the action was to obtain payment from the defendant.

Mike Huckins

Mike Huckins

In short, this law was tailored to not only outline a cure period for ADA violations, but also deter attorneys from filing multiple, costly, bad-faith ADA-based civil actions against businesses. Giving businesses an express timeframe for remedies may also expedite the resolution of minor ADA violations, which were the source of many of these frivolous lawsuits.

We thank the Legislature for working to get this bill signed by members from both parties and sent to Governor Ducey’s desk. Particular thanks goes out to Sen. John Kavanagh, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Rep. Karen Fann for shepherding this bill through the process.

The Arizona business community owes a huge debt of gratitude to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich for filing a successful motion late last year to dismiss more than 1,000 lawsuits filed by the nonprofit group Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities, a particularly egregious offender of filing for-profit, copy-and-paste shakedown lawsuits against numerous Arizona businesses.

The solution provided by the enactment of SB1406 paves the way to solve ADA compliance issues without lining the pockets of greed-driven attorneys and groups seeking to squeeze paydays from business owners and use the disability community as a means for profit.

– Jaime A. Molera is chairman of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Committee.

– Mike Huckins is vice president of public affairs for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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