New App May Lead To Increase In ADA Lawsuits

Author(s): Charles E. Noneman

Source: CCN Client Alert

11/7/2013

A new website/mobile app designed to assist persons with disabilities may create significant issues for commercial property owners.

The creativity of designers of new apps for access by internet or mobile devices continues to produce multiple new web applications. A new application called AXS Map has been designed to assist persons with disabilities locate businesses such as hotels, restaurants, office buildings, and retail stores that are easily accessible to disabled persons. However, the site raises several concerns for business owners of property. Disabled users of the site are invited to review businesses and comment on accessibility, both the ease of accessibility or the lack of accessibility. Similar to sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp, users are invited to post a review and a rating ranging from one through five stars related to the accessibility of items such as entering the premises or the restrooms, which are the usual two areas of concern. As volunteers and disabled potential customers become more familiar with the application, the comments and remarks will certainly grow. Unlike Yelp or Trip Advisor, there are no current means for a property owner to comment on or refute a review that indicates a property with accessibility issues.

While the purpose of the AXS Map website is laudable in assisting disabled persons in finding accessible sites, it also creates serious issues for commercial property owners.  Aside from negative reviews and ratings, a more serious problem is that AXS Map provides a rich resource for plaintiffs and their lawyers trolling for businesses to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") for not providing access to disabled persons. Presently lawyers and their clients bring lawsuits by locating facilities that are not in compliance with the ADA through personal visits, driving through parking lots and checking for obvious violations of the ADA. In the future, by simply looking at AXS Map, these plaintiffs and their lawyers will be assisted in their claims by following the reviews and comments by disabled persons.

Property owners who are concerned about the potential for being sued under the ADA may elect to have their premises reviewed by a Certified Access Specialist who will certify what areas are not in compliance with the ADA, make recommendations, reinspect the premises after the potential violations are remediated and provide a certificate of compliance with the ADA to the owner or property manager. That certificate can then be suitably placed in a protected area easily readable by the public. Such a certificate often  avoids frivolous ADA claims and lawsuits on property that has been certified as compliant with the ADA by a Certified Access Specialist. Lawyers and their clients who are searching for ADA accessibility issues on non-compliant premises generally do not waste time with a "certified accessible" property.

Cox Castle Nicholson LLP has extensive experience in defending and settling ADA cases. If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding ADA issues, please contact:

Charles Noneman at 310.284.2236 or cnoneman@coxcastle.com
Ali Hamidi at 415.262.5106 or ahamidi@coxcastle.com
Rick Kranz at 949.260.4626 or rkranz@coxcastle.com