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Our attorneys stay on top of changes in legislation, agency regulations, case law, and industry trends—then craft timely legal alerts to keep clients up to date on legal developments important to their business.

April 25, 2022

ADA Accessibility Lawsuits: District Attorneys in California File Civil Complaint Against Law Firm for Exploiting ADA, Targeting Small Businesses

On April 12, 2022, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced the filing of a civil complaint against the law firm Potter Handy LLP, which, according to a press release, has “filed thousands of fraudulent, boilerplate [website accessibility] lawsuits against small businesses . . .”

Potter Handy is accused of “pressur[ing] its targets to pay it settlements of upwards of $10,000 each—often from small businesses who cannot afford to hire attorneys to litigate in federal court.” The lawsuit seeks, among other relief, the return of all settlements paid by the small business owners as well as civil penalties against Potter Handy for each violation. “We will hold accountable those who exploit vulnerable business owners, hurt immigrant communities, and subvert the intent of laws designed to promote accessibility,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. 

We have previously reported on numerous occasions about other law firms targeting small businesses in what the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office might consider a “business model designed to shake down small businesses into paying cash settlements rather than ensure ADA accessibility.” We are optimistic district attorneys in other jurisdictions will take action against predatory law firms with a “business model” similar to that of which Potter Handy is accused; but in the meantime, and in the absence of legislation or regulations to curb website accessibility lawsuits, we recommend that businesses operating a website or mobile application take steps to ensure that these online systems are accessible to visually- and hearing-impaired users and otherwise comply with federal, state, and local disability laws.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Rob Thorpe, partner, at rthorpe@barclaydamon.com, or another member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Area or Hotels, Hospitality & Food Service Team.

The Labor & Employment Podcast is a weekly Barclay Damon Live podcast hosted by Ari Kwiatkowski that provides employers with important updates regarding ever-evolving state and federal labor and employment laws as well as a wide range of timely topics pertaining to labor and employment issues in the workplace. Click here to watch or listen to the Labor & Employment Podcast as well as Barclay Damon’s other podcast series: Cyber Sip and Cannabis Counselor.

 

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