Steven D. Sladkus, Jeffrey M. Schwartz & Jeffrey S. Reich in Board Operations on December 6, 2012
The ADA does not require a plaintiff to provide any prior notice of his or her intent to file suit. As a result, many buildings, including in this instance our client co-op board, found themselves facing lawsuits without warning. Given that liability was a "slam dunk" for the plaintiff and our condo-board client was on the hook for the plaintiff's legal costs, we resolved the claim quickly to minimize our client's exposure and stop the plaintiff's legal fees from accruing.
The settlement entailed correcting the alleged ADA violations and paying an agreed-upon amount for attorneys' fees. While the violations were easily resolved, the claim for attorneys' fees was settled at a steep cost, though less than $10,00. Such legal fees are nearly unavoidable under Title III.
Co-op boards and condo boards can avoid Title III ADA lawsuits by taking a few protective measures. Confirm that your building's insurance policy protects against these claims. Retain an ADA-compliance expert to survey the building for violations and recommend solutions for correcting them. Many times, the solutions can be simple and inexpensive. For example, if the store entrance in your building has steps, consider purchasing a temporary ramp and installing a wireless doorbell.
Being proactive will not only avoid unwanted litigation, but will also serve the ADA's true goal of assisting the disabled.
Steven D. Sladkus, Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Jeffrey S. Reich are partners at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.
Photo by Carol Ott
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