By Kristina M. Launey

NBC Bay Area recently aired a report by Vicky Nguyen, Jeremy Carroll and Kevin Nious, analyzing federal lawsuits that alleged ADA violations, calling it “legalized extortion.”  NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Team found from the more than 10,0000 ADA lawsuits it reviewed that had been filed in the five states with the highest disabled populations (California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida) since 2005, that California has more lawsuits (7,188) for access violations than the other four states combined.  Note that this does not include complaints filed in state courts alleging violations of the ADA or its state law equivalents.  The report notes that unlike the ADA, California disability access laws are enforced through private lawsuits – since California allows up to $4,000 statutory damages per violation – and asks the question whether the suits are motivated by access or money.  The report revealed that over 50% of California ADA lawsuits were filed by 30 plaintiffs.  The report also interviewed a Certified Access Specialist, who demonstrated the difficulty businesses face in achieving full compliance with the requirements for physical accessibility, such as the proper measurements for a disabled parking space. The report concluded that, while not a guaranteed shield, having a Certified Access Specialist assess and provide an “Access Inspected” certificate can help deter drive-by plaintiffs from targeting a business for a lawsuit.