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There were 4,436 public accommodation discrimination lawsuits filed in 2014, a 63% increase over 2013, according to an analysis of federal case filings by Seyfarth Shaw L.L.P.
Fueling the increase are so-called “testers,” individuals who work with small law firms that file dozens, if not hundreds, of so-called “drive-by” lawsuits against companies for Title III violations.
Observers say it is difficult for firms, particularly small businesses, to fully comply with the ADA's technical provisions.
“It's low-hanging fruit,” said Douglas A. Hass, an associate at Franczek Radelet P.C. in Chicago.
Businesses generally agree to remediate alleged violations and pay plaintiff attorney and expert fees, rather than engage in more costly litigation.
Traditionally, such litigation has focused on physical store characteristics. But observers say more litigation is beginning to be filed on the issue of website accessibility, which does not require plaintiffs to physically visit a store.
“It's easier than measuring parking spaces,” said Allan H. Weitzman, a partner at Proskauer Rose L.L.P. in Boca Raton, Florida.
In addition, more multistore lawsuits and class actions are being brought in ADA accommodation cases, said Anne Marie Estevez, a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius L.L.P. in Miami.
“Plaintiff lawyers are becoming more sophisticated in this area,” with more advocacy groups also pushing the issue, Ms. Estevez said.
Companies are in limbo as they wait for long-delayed rules on Web accessibility and enforcement actions continue.