How to stop lawyers from abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act

Also in letters to the editor: Ormond Beach's permitting process.
By: 
Mar. 14, 2017

By Tom Leek

Guest Writer

I have defended businesses for almost 15 years against a handful of law firms that abuse the Americans with Disabilities Act by filing lawsuits by the hundreds against unsuspecting hoteliers, restaurateurs and other local businesses. This law gives the ADA back to the people for whom it was written, Americans with disabilities.

This month, I filed House Bill 727 relating to places of public accommodation. Florida Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) and Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) are co-introducing Senate Bill 1398, which increases the accessibility of places of public accommodation for Floridians with disabilities by incentivizing businesses to become more compliant with the ADA. It provides business with the necessary resources to self evaluate their premises for ADA compliance. And, it gives courts a tool to deny claims for attorneys’ fees and costs for drive-by ADA lawsuits.

Congress enacted the ADA in 1992, which provided that all places of public accommodation — such as stores, restaurants, doctors’ offices — must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

The number of Title III ADA lawsuits filed in the U.S. has increased over 118% in six years. Since 2012, nearly 6,000 ADA compliance lawsuits have been filed in Florida, making Florida one of the states where you are most likely to be sued under the ADA in the nation.

Over 1,000 of those have been filed by a former doctor named Howard Cohan. Mr. Cohan’s drive by lawsuits cost local businesses thousands upon thousands in unnecessary litigation costs. Predatory plaintiffs like Mr. Cohan have preyed on local businesses in factory-like fashion, leading many Floridians to doubt the veracity of such claims.

The ADA is a good law with a good purpose. However, its purpose has been frustrated by a handful of law firms perverting a good law for their own monetary gain. In the end, only Congress can fix the ADA’s flaws, but this bill will cut down on the abuses all the while preserving the truly valid ADA claims.

HB 727 takes a big step forward for Florida’s disability and business communities. I hope you will join me in preserving the true intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and making a difference for our state.

Tom Leek represents District 25, including Ormond Beach, in the Florida House of Representatives.

 

Ormond Beach is certainly open for business

Dear Editor:

I enjoyed reading the positive news in the March 9 edition regarding a potential new project on the site of the former Food Lion. The likelihood of having a new multiuse project on the beach side would be a positive step for Ormond Beach and our downtown. 

As I read the article, I took exception to the quote by Mr. Tim Davis: “The city of Ormond Beach is a tough municipality to get projects permitted." I’m not sure Mr. Davis has ever developed real estate in the city of Ormond Beach. I have in the past and am currently in the process of developing real estate in the city of Ormond Beach, and our city does welcome development and business.

I have served on the Planning Board for the city of Ormond Beach for over five years and know, in fact, that we take productive development very seriously in our city. Our city’s planning department is very welcoming and friendly to both developers and land owners attempting to develop real estate in our city.

We have a process called SPRC (Site Plan Review Committee) that allows a potential applicant or developer to meet with the various departments within the city in an informal setting to review a new project and get vital feedback prior to the developer spending time and money. This process is extremely beneficial for the developer to allow city staff to review their project from its inception to gain vital information to prepare their plans for submittal. 

Also, the city of Ormond Beach has a process of requiring the developer to hold a neighborhood meeting prior to any project being approved. This process allows for neighbors to share their concerns about a potential project and have the developer make changes to their plans if necessary. 

Recently, the city’s building department streamlined the permitting process to allow for a more efficient system. Plans are electronically submitted and allow the contractor to monitor the status of permits in real time. 

So, as you can see the city of Ormond Beach is open for business and welcomes smart growth. I hope that the owners of the Food Lion property will work with our planning department to discuss their plans and move forward with this exciting project.

Lewis M. Heaster

Ormond Beach

 

Use crosswalks to avoid pedestrian crashes

Dear Editor:

Your article on pedestrian safety in the Feb. 16 edition is very appropriate for both drivers and pedestrians. I also feel that this problem varies with location and density of people.

I have been living around the 1100 block on A1A in Ormond-by-the-Sea for over 10 years and seldom see drivers stop at the pedestrian crossing in that location. I believe one of the reasons is that most walkers who have to cross this road don't wait at the cross walk. Instead they walk along the highway and cross when there is a safe gap in traffic.

On the road up to Flagler, the cross walks are more pronounced by being located at beach entry points. I notice more compliance to the rules at these locations.

I believe the crossings in more populated areas could be made safer if the pedestrians give a visible sign they are crossing. This could be accomplished by the raising of one's arm over the head. Why not try it out?

Charlie Cheswick

Ormond Beach

 

Email letters to editor@ormondbeachobserver.com.