Businesses Facing ADA Suits

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 17, 2008 12:00 am  

Jimmy Ashley has filed federal lawsuits against four Jonesboro restaurants and accused them of not meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

"For older buildings, pre-1990 buildings, the law requires that businesses move existing barriers, as barriers can be removed without much difficulty or expense," she said.

The question she then gets from business owners is how far they need to go to make their businesses accessible. Milito said many business owners think a "grandfather clause" exempts older businesses or older buildings from meeting ADA requirements.

"Not true," she said.

And some business owners think they aren't required to meet ADA requirements if they lease space. That's not true either, Milito said.

Even Matt Modelevsky of Jonesboro, who is defending the Brick House Grill and the combination Taco Bell and KFC location in Jonesboro in the lawsuits brought by Ashley, said he needed to investigate whether the businesses are ADA-compliant.

"Obviously my clients are concerned about doing that and making their facilities open to individuals with any number of handicaps," he said. "They want to comply with ADA. ... At this point, I'm not sure that they aren't in compliance."

Ashley sued a fourth Jonesboro restaurant, Main Street Pizza, because he couldn't get to the restroom, which is upstairs on the second floor.

Main Street Pizza owner Mustafa Ergun said he didn't know of any ADA complaints and hadn't seen Ashley's lawsuit.

Ergun said Main Street Pizza was in a building that he didn't own, but he would ask the landlord about making the bathroom accessible. Ergun also said customers should approach him with any ADA complaints and he would try to address them. 

Restrooms are one of the problem areas that make a business a prime target for an ADA lawsuit.

"If you provide restroom facilities to the general public, they need to be fully accessible," Lawyers Against Lawsuit Abuse said in a report about avoiding ADA lawsuits. "Certainly, the access door is a major red flag, but there are a host of other compliance issues as well."

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