The National Grocers Association (NGA), a trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, and 28 state trade associations this week urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the ADA Reform and Education Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) in a letter sent to lawmakers. According to the organizations, the legislation would “protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits brought by ethically questionable lawyers often only seeking a payout instead of protecting disabled patrons.”
Independent supermarket operators are frequently targets for legal action, or threats of legal action, designed to force a business to settle out of court instead of sustaining a protracted and expansive legal battle. To give stores an opportunity to correct potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), H.R. 620 would require supermarket operators to be given 60-days to respond to allegations after receiving written warning, and 120-days to make substantial progress toward addressing the alleged violation.
“In recent years, supermarket operators are no longer simply negotiating slip-and-fall lawsuits, but patent trolling and the threat of ADA litigation as well,” the group wrote to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Often ADA litigators have never been in the store that they are threatening to sue, or do not have a client that has been injured or harmed in any way. These attorneys regularly send threatening letters to store owners in hopes of an easy settlement.”
“Independent grocers are committed to complying with all ADA guidelines and making their stores accessible to disabled customers,” said Chris Jones, VP of government relations and counsel at NGA. “Any supermarket found to have shortcomings under the ADA should be granted an opportunity to take corrective measures without the threat of a frivolous lawsuit from lawyers who are more interested in making a buck than protecting the rights of the disabled.”
See the complete letter below:
Dear Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi:
The undersigned companies and trade associations strongly endorse H.R. 620, the ADA Reform and Education Act of 2017, and request that the bill be brought to the House floor for consideration. The bill includes several common sense provisions that help protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits brought by ethically questionable lawyers who are simply seeking a payout — not to protect disabled patrons. As representatives of independent supermarket operators from every congressional district in the country, we ask you to join us in supporting H.R. 620, and allow the House of Representatives to vote on this important piece of legislation.
Independent supermarket operators are frequently targets for legal action, or threats of legal action, designed to force a business to settle out of court instead of sustaining a protracted and expensive legal battle. In recent years, supermarket operators are no longer simply negotiating slip-and-fall lawsuits, but patent trolling and the threat of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) litigation as well. Often ADA litigators have never been in the store that they are threatening to sue, or do not have a client that has been injured or harmed in any way. These attorneys regularly send threatening letters to store owners in hopes of an easy settlement.
H.R. 620 would help protect business owners from questionable legal actions by requiring that complaints be provided to the business in writing, detailing the infraction and who was harmed by the violation. This will significantly reduce attorneys’ ability to operate with impunity and solicit settlements from vulnerable businesses.
To give stores an opportunity to correct potential ADA violations, they will be given 60-days from the receipt of written notice to respond to any allegation, and 120-days to make “substantial progress” towards addressing the alleged violation. For independent supermarket operators who survive on a 1-2 percent profit margin, ADA claims are extremely costly. Providing businesses with 120-days to take corrective measures gives businesses the needed flexibility to make necessary changes without putting unnecessary stress on operations.
Finally, the bill requires the Department of Justice to develop a program to educate state and local governments on effective strategies for promoting access to public facilities for disabled persons in consultation with local businesses and members of the disability rights community. The independent supermarket industry wholeheartedly supports educational efforts and the creation of a coalition of state and local organizations that can facilitate positive discussions that promote increased access for disabled persons.
Thank you for your consideration of H.R. 620, and we hope that this important legislation will be brought to the House floor as soon as possible. We are committed to serving our disabled patrons and providing them access to our stores and facilities, but frivolous lawsuits must be reined in.
Alabama Grocers Association
Arizona Food Marketing Alliance
Arkansas Grocers & Retail Merchants Association
Connecticut Food Association
Florida Grocers Association
Georgia Food Industry Association
Hawaii Food Industry Association
Indiana Grocery & Convenience Store Association
Iowa Grocery Industry Association
Kansas Food Dealers Association
Kentucky Grocers Association
Maryland Retailers Association
Massachusetts Food Association
Minnesota Grocers Association
Mississippi Retail & Grocers Association
Missouri Grocers Association
National Grocers Association
New Hampshire Grocers Association
Ohio Grocers Association
Oklahoma Grocers Association
Retail Grocers Association of Greater Kansas City
Rhode Islands Food Dealers Association
Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association
Texas Food and Fuel Association
Texas Retailers Association
Utah Food Industry Association
Washington Food Industry Association
West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association
Wisconsin Grocers Association
Cc: All members of the House of Representatives