COLUMNIST: Unscrupulous Lawyers Driving Need for ADA Law Reform

By Rep. Dennis Smith
Guest Columnist

Over the past few years there has been an epidemic of unsubstantiated lawsuits threatened and filed against businesses owners across Minnesota. These lawsuits are brought by attorneys chasing a buck, not the ones who the laws are meant to protect. Beginning in 2016, I went to work on this issue and we passed an initial law to begin to fix this problem.

This past session I authored a bill signed by Governor Dayton to further refine the 2016 law against fraudulent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits brought under Minnesota law. My bill was supported by the Minnesota Council on Disabilities and required businesses to be given notice that they were out of compliance. Furthermore, the offending business has a period of time to rectify the situation and become ADA compliant — the entire goal of the ADA.

However, there has been continued reports of ADA lawsuits threatened against numerous St. Paul businesses [http://www.twincities.com/2017/09/06/from-mickeys-to-reds-st-paul-mainstays-confronted-with-ada-complaints/] as well as business across the state with attorneys threatening to bring action under the Federal Law. This is the bad actor’s way of getting around the fix we made here in Minnesota.

So while under Minnesota law it was fixed so that businesses must be given a window of time to correct an ADA violation once it has been brought to their attention, the Federal Law has not caught up to these lawyers going door-to-door, business-to-business looking for extremely violations and threatening suit.

I hope this is another situation where the Federal Government will look to Minnesota for how to improve the federal law. Congressman Tom Emmer is cosponsor of a bill to make reforms to the Federal Law to close this loophole.

I have been pleased to work with our Congressional delegation to get changes made to the Federal Law to stop the abuse of well-meaning laws. If you want information on how to contact your Congressman or how to help in the effort to fix this problem, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected] or phone number 651-296-5502.

Rep. Dennis Smith represents District 34B and the cities of Maple Grove and Osseo