ADA lawsuits: Issue overview

Restaurants strive to provide a welcoming environment and want to ensure unfettered access and accommodation for every guest to provide an exceptional dining experience. As such, we uphold the Americans with Disabilities Act as a vital law that has improved access and equality for Americans with disabilities.

The law’s integrity, however, is being compromised by an onslaught of abusive lawsuits filed by a cottage industry of attorneys and vexatious litigants who target restaurants and other small businesses to extort costly legal settlements. The ADA was intended to improve access, not line the pockets of unscrupulous attorneys seeking a payout.

Among the problems:

“Drive-by” lawsuits: In many cases, plaintiffs will “drive by” and file dozens, even hundreds, of cases across a geographic area. Restaurants and others often lack the resources to combat these abusive lawsuits and are left paying significant legal fees.

Website accessibility lawsuits: More recently, the same cash-hungry attorneys are suing business owners alleging their websites do not comply with the ADA. It's important to note, however, that the ADA neither addresses nor mentions websites. However, the Department of Justice has taken the position that websites are connected to physical spaces and thus covered by the ADA. Unfortunately, the DOJ has failed to express an official position, in any forum, about what constitutes compliance. Given that there are no legally recognized standards, the DOJ makes it impossible for restaurants and other businesses to comply with certainty, leaving them exposed to expensive lawsuits.

Our position

We support legislative and administrative proposals to restore the integrity and goals of the ADA -- improved access and accommodation -- while simultaneously preventing well-meaning business owners from being victimized by abusive lawsuits. Specifically:

  • We support commonsense legislation such as the ADA Education and Reform Act. The Act, which passed the House in the 115th Congress, would provide businesses with a “notice and cure” opportunity to identify and correct alleged ADA violations before plaintiffs could engage in unnecessary litigation and pursue costly legal settlements.
  • We urge the Justice Department to pursue formal guidance to help clarify website accessibility standards.