Myths About ADA Compliance Litigation: What You Don’t Know About the ADA Can Cost You – Cris Vaughan Interviewed by Dennis Beaver on Times Standard

You and the Law: What you don’t know about the ADA can cost you (Article by Dennis Beaver)

Original Article link:

Myths about the ADA
Is there such a thing as being “grandfathered in” to the ADA, allowing a property owner a free-pass for accessibility compliance? We put our reader’s question to Sacramento ADA attorney Chris Vaughan.

“This is a question I get asked often,” Vaughan said. “There is no provision which allows avoiding compliance since buildings are not ‘grandfathered,’ he stated, adding, “There may be some differences in how the law is applied to a building that existed before the ADA became law, but there is no way to avoid improving access.”

It is one of several myths about the ADA’s accessibility requirements, he says, and points out the importance of the ADA to our country as a whole.

Cris Vaughan: Since its becoming law in January of 1990, the ADA established comprehensive protection for people with a variety of disabilities and has sought to remove barriers to full participation in all that society has to offer. It has been a highly successful tool in the reduction of discrimination against the disabled. From the day it went into effect, any business or property open to the public was required to meet ADA accessibility requirements.”

Vaughan outlined some of the commonly held myths about the ADA which also has versions in every state:

Myth: Since the property has been in existence 30 or more years, I am excused from making alterations necessary to make it meet current disabled access requirements.

Vaughan answer: “Generally speaking, a building existing when the ADA went into effect does not have to strictly comply with its requirements if to do so would require an unusual expense or be unusually difficult. The rules must be complied with if readily achievable to do so.”
He was quick to add, “But if you cannot strictly comply, you still must improve the property as much as you can to provide disabled access, and this might include alternative compliance or facilitation when strict compliance cannot be achieved. An example would be a vendor who cannot provide access to the interior of its facility might comply with the law by having curbside service in some circumstances. The whole idea is to make your property accessible through other means.”

Myth: My lease says the tenant is responsible for ADA so I do not have any liability.

Vaughan answer: “Under federal ADA law, both tenant and landlord are equally responsible for compliance. However, liability between them can be assigned or allocated in the lease. They can agree who is responsible for what. For example, the lease could specify that while the tenants occupy the premises, they are required to make any changes necessary to bring the property into ADA compliance.”

I asked, “But what if both landlord and tenant are sued for a violation of the ADA? If the lease makes it the tenant’s obligation to comply with the ADA, will this allow the landlord to get out of the lawsuit?”

“No,” Cris replied, “lease provisions — who is responsible for what — can’t be used as a defense against the person who filed suit for a violation of the ADA. Both tenant and landlord are still legally responsible, even though they have an agreement between themselves.”

Myth: If I fix it, I don’t have to pay the person who sued me anything.

Vaughan answer: “Under both federal and state law (which will vary depending on the state) damages are still collectable regardless of fixing the access issue, and can easily run into the thousands of dollars. In fact, yearly, many small business owners are forced to close their doors permanently, losing their livelihood, frequently where the access violation was minor and easily remedied.”

Myth: It’s not a big deal if I wait until I’m sued to do something.

Vaughan answer: “The only way to avoid being sued is to fix the property. If you wait until you are sued, you will have to pay to fix it and pay your attorney, the plaintiff’s attorney, and the plaintiff,” he observes.

So, how can you learn what’s wrong with your property?

“Obtain an evaluation from a Certified Access Specialist and do it before you are sued,” Vaughan concludes.

Call Vaughan & Associates Law Firm
Northern California: 916-660-9401
Bay Area/Central California: 415-492-2854
Southern California: 310-426-2836

KMOVE Radio Interview with Cris Vaughan: ‘Have You Been Sued For ADA Compliance Violations? What You Need To Know…’

Original Air Date: January 9th 2019

Vaughan & Associates Interview with KMOVE Radio About ADA Compliance Violations. Cris Vaughan Interviewed by Clay Goodman

Listen in to Cris Vaughan, Attorney at Vaughan & Associates talk about first steps in defending your business and property in ADA and disabled access lawsuits.

Vaughan & Associates is a law firm that defends businesses and properties in ADA compliance violation lawsuits throughout the State of California including Sacramento, Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Modesto, Stockton, San Jose, and more.

KMOVE Radio is an audio show for people who are always on the move! “Our guests and listeners are active, busy, progressing, advancing…you know, on the move! Listen in to our wide variety of podcasts! We’re always looking for an adventure!”

KMOVE Radio Show Interview Link:

If you would like subtitles or captions for this video please use the CC Captions button on the YouTube player above or email us for assistance – thank  you.


Featured in Hanford Sentinel: Interview with ADA Defense Attorney Cris C. Vaughan about ‘Drive-By’ ADA Compliance Lawsuits

Our Law Firm Was Featured in the Hanford Sentinel!

Read more here…

You and the Law: Ever hear of a drive-by lawsuit? – Interview with ADA Defense Attorney Cris C. Vaughan (by Dennis Beaver of


Vaughan & Associates Website:
Northern California Office: 916-660-9401
Bay Area/Central California Office: 415-492-2854
Southern California Office: 310-426-2836

Vaughan & Associates – ADA Defense Lawyers for California ADA Compliance Violation Lawsuits: Protecting Your Business in ADA & Disabled Access Compliance Violation Lawsuits. We Are a Cris Vaughan Law Firm of ADA Defense Attorneys That Helps Defend You in Americans with Disabilities Act Litigation. We serve the entire state of California.

Excerpts & Notable Quotes from Dennis’ Article:

Sacramento California attorney Cris Vaughan can tell you all about these suits which his law firm defends throughout the state.

“A ‘Drive-By’ lawsuit claims violations of the ADA by a person who does nothing more than drive by business without ever attempting to become a customer and there is no evidence of the individual ever being in their business.

“Business owners must hire an attorney to defend themselves where small and easily curable violations of ADA access requirements on the outside of their business that can be seen when driving by the property.

“Three law firms with less than twenty plaintiffs file the majority of the ADA cases in federal court. Twenty or more cases a month are filed using a single individual. California has a financial reward for the person who brings an ADA lawsuit, even for minor or purely technical violations, like a parking space being an inch too narrow.” Vaughan stated.

At least one individual law firm in California files more than one hundred ADA lawsuits a month using virtually identical language, changing little more than the name and address of the business in a boiler plate complaint. “In many cases, the lawsuit targets a small immigrant or minority owned business.”

“The business either pays the settlement demand– frequently over $10,000–or spends thousands more fighting the lawsuit, or shutting down the business” Vaughan stated in frustration.

“But in these lawsuit, the plaintiff lived in Arizona, never left her home, but claimed an ADA violation because the hotel she saw on Google Earth lacked a chairlift! Her lawyer filed dozens of these questionable lawsuits in California Federal Courts against hotels all over the state!” Vaughan points out.

“Clients tell me ‘It feels like there’s a gun to your head. ‘Vaughan stated, adding

“Many hotels simply settled these suits, paying $5,000 or more to the Arizona lawyer. But then a few attorneys who represented major hotels asked the Courts to dismiss these suits on the grounds of what is called Standing.

“That means, the plaintiff could not show that the lack of a chairlift actually harmed her, as she was never at the hotel, or in California, for that matter. But rejection of these lawsuits by the court came after many hotels just paid up.” he points out, adding, “These types of lawsuits are still going on today,” he concluded.

5 Things To Do Now When Your Business Is Sued For ADA Compliance Violations – ADA Lawsuit Defense Firm

5 Things To Do When Your Business Is Sued For ADA Compliance Violations – Vaughan & Associates, a Cris Vaughan Law Firm

Call Our Defense Attorneys Today If You Have Been Sued For ADA:

Northern CA 916-660-9401

Bay Area / Central CA 415-492-2854

Southern CA 310-426-2836

You may have arrived at this website as a result of being sued individually or your business being sued for ADA accessibility violations. There are more than 100 lawsuits per month filed in California alleging businesses are not in compliance with applicable ADA access requirements.

Here are several steps to take if you’ve been sued for a violation of ADA accessibility requirements:

#1: Take the lawsuit seriously. I get contacted at least once a month by a business or individual who didn’t take a lawsuit like this serious, and now is facing a money judgment and someone’s trying to collect money from them. This is not a scam. This is what the law allows to happen at the current time. There is no grandfather provision or other protection for your business so take the lawsuit seriously.

#2: Contact a lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced and handling matters of this type. There are only a handful of attorneys in the state of California whose primary practice is defending businesses sued for ADA accessibility violations. Make sure your attorney has not only handled these matters before, but is knowledgeable and experienced enough to give you all of the options available in responding to cases of this type. There are effective means of responding to these type of lawsuits. Make sure your attorney is aware of all of them.

#3: Obtain an accessibility evaluation of your property. The only way to prevent a lawsuit like this from happening again, is if the property is in compliance. The first step is to obtain an evaluation and a list of all the things that are wrong in the property. In California, there is a group of people known a Certified Access Specialist or CASp who are recognized by the state of California as experts in accessibility who can give you a list of the changes that need to be made on your property. This ADA compliance evaluation is a service that our other business, ADA Consultant Services, helps businesses and properties with, Contact our CASp experts here: or 916-660-1916.

#4: Develop a plan to implement those changes. Not all changes have to be made immediately, but they do have to be made in order to prevent the property from being sued again. In our experience, we’ve had one property sued three separate times for the same type of violation. Make sure you implement the plan and make the changes that are in the report. They don’t all have to be made immediately but they do need to be made to give you the protection from this happening again.

#5: Be prepared to take action and review this as a business problem as any other problem your business may face. It will take business judgment and a decision making process to solve this moving forward.

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.

Call Our Defense Attorneys Today If You Have Been Sued For ADA:

Northern CA 916-660-9401

Bay Area / Central CA 415-492-2854

Southern CA 310-426-2836

Sued For ADA Compliance Violations? – 3 Things To Know For Your Business or Property

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Loomis, CA 95650

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Watch the video:

(Time Stamps | Captioning Transcription Text from Video):

00:01 | Hi this is Chris Vaughan with Vaughan and
00:03 | Associates it’s the 2nd quarter of
00:05 | 2018 and time to update the latest
00:09 | happenings on ADA disabled access
00:11 | lawsuits in California.
00:13 | Unfortunately plaintiffs and their
00:15 | attorneys have never been more active,
00:17 | we’re seeing as many as 300 to 350
00:20 | lawsuits for disabled access violations
00:23 | in Federal Court alone. In addition to
00:25 | other state court cases, that’s just a
00:28 | huge number of cases in the Central
00:30 | District which is Los Angeles CA and the
00:31 | 6 surrounding counties we’re seeing
00:33 | more than 80 cases a week being filed, so
00:37 | ADA disabled access litigation is
00:39 | something we all got to take seriously.
00:40 | If your business or your property is
00:45 | sued for ADA disabled access, a couple
00:47 | things you need to know, the issues that
00:49 | have to get handled are the same whether
00:51 | you go to trial
00:52 | or whether you try to resolve or settle
00:53 | the case before trial. Those issues are
00:56 | the following: Number 1, what’s going to
00:58 | get fixed in what amount of time. Number
01:00 | 2, what’s going to get paid in terms of
01:03 | statutory damages. Unfortunately in
01:05 | California, statutory damages can be as
01:08 | much as $4000 for each
01:10 | visit to the property. Most of the
01:13 | experienced plaintiffs and their law
01:15 | firms have multiple visits, as many as 6,
01:18 | 7, 8, we’ve seen one case with 13
01:20 | visits to the property. You can well
01:23 | imagine at $4,000 per visit it adds up
01:25 | very quickly. The 3rd issue in all
01:27 | these lawsuits is
01:29 | attorneys fees. The unfortunate reality
01:31 | is, that the formula for calculating fees
01:35 | is easy to understand but hard to apply.
01:38 | The formula says reasonable attorneys
01:41 | fees are: Reasonable hourly rate times
01:43 | Reasonable number of hours. In the
01:45 | Central District Los Angeles and to a
01:47 | lesser extent in the Northern District
01:49 | in the San Francisco San Jose Oakland
01:52 | area, attorney fee hourly rates that have
01:55 | been awarded by the courts range
01:56 | anywhere from $350 to $850 an hour.
01:59 | You can see that it doesn’t take very
02:01 | many hours at all, 15 or 20 hours, to add
02:03 | up to a big number. The cost of these
02:06 | kinds of cases are going to be somewhere
02:07 | between $500 and $2,500, but when you add
02:10 | up 3 or 4 visits at $4,000 a piece,
02:13 | together with attorneys fees
02:15 | of anywhere from $7,500 to $15,000 or more,
02:20 | and the costs of additional $1,500 to
02:23 | $2,500 it’s a huge number. Feel free to
02:25 | call us for a free consultation, we
02:28 | defend anywhere from 100 to
02:30 | 120 lawsuits of this type
02:31 | per year. Our numbers are increasing every
02:34 | year and it may well be closer to 150
02:37 | cases in calendar year 2018. Call us at
02:41 | any of the 3 numbers on your screen
02:42 | and we’ll be happy to help you however
02:44 | we can thank you.


Call: 916-660-9401, 415-492-2854, 310-426-2836.



Accessibility Rules for Counters What Every Business Should Know

Compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Building Code (CBC) requires that businesses not only make facilities accessible from the exterior, but that they ensure that interior spaces are accessible to disabled persons. This requires creating spaces to facilitate the exchange of goods and money, and to allow disabled persons to maneuver about to purchase goods and services offered by the business. According to the ADA, sales and service countersmust be made accessible when doing so is readily achievable. The rules for counter accessibility for sales and service counters are more fully described in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Note that California has more stringent rules when it comes to counters.

Counter height. For transaction counters that provide sales or services such as ticketing transaction counters or hotel and motel registration, some portion of the counter should be at least 36 inches long and no more than 36 inches above the floor. The CBC requires counters to be 34 inches maximum above the finished floor. At this height, the counter is accessible for disabled persons to complete transactions. As an alternative, a business may in some circumstances provide a second counter in the same area or make a folding shelf available.

Accessible space near service counters.  Sales and service counters must be situated with sufficient floor space to allow a customer using a wheelchair to access the counter. The floor area must be clear of obstacles and measure at least 30 inches by 48 inches. The space may be parallel or perpendicular to the counter. The accessible space should be located on an accessible route which connects to the accessible entrance through which customers enter the facility. The area should also be accessible to the other sections in the store where merchandise is sold. As a general rule, interior routes must be 36 inches minimum in width with some aisles required to be 44 inches wide.

Checkout aisles.  Checkout aisles in supermarkets and similar businesses have specific standards for accessibility for customers using a wheelchair. The counter in a check-out aisle cannot exceed 38 inches in height above the finish floor. The maximum height extends to 40 inches if there is a lip between the counter and checkout aisle. An accessible checkout aisle is required to be a minimum of 36 inches wide. An accessible aisle should be identified by a sign that includes the international symbol of accessibility.  In determining how many accessible aisles a business must establish, it must take into account how many total aisles exist in the facility. At least two accessible aisles should be provided if the business has more than five checkout aisles.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.


Understanding the Safe Harbor for Small Businesses

The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010 ADAS) became effective March 15, 2012. The 2010 ADAS revised some of the provisions contained in the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and regulated for the first time a number of new areas including many outdoor activity areas not covered by the ADAAG. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidance for business owners to help them understand and comply with new regulations.

The 2010 ADAS includes a “safe harbor” provision. It is important to understand there is no safe harbor available if your property was not in compliance with ADAAG or if the 2010 ADAS regulated a specific subject for the first time. Many outdoor activity areas were regulated for the first time by the 2010 ADAS and there is no safe harbor available for those areas.

In its simplest form, the safe harbor provision means that if your property was in compliance with the ADAAG and the 2010 ADAS change the compliance requirement, no alteration is required. Several examples below illustrate how the safe harbor provision applies.

  • Number of van accessible spaces. The 2010 ADAS requires one van accessible space for every six accessible spaces. ADAAG required only one van accessible space for every eight accessible spaces. If your business met the one van accessible space for every eight accessible spaces under ADAAG, no alteration is required. The one van space for every eight accessible spaces configuration could remain until the parking lot was restriped. Upon restriping, which is considered an alteration, compliance with the one for every six configuration would be required.

  • Dispenser heights. ADAAG permitted product dispensers to be as high as 54 inches above the floor if a parallel approach permits a side reach instead of a forward reach. The 2010 ADAS limits maximum reach range to 48 inches above the finish surface. For businesses with dispensers at 54 inches above the surface, safe harbor permits them to remain as long as a parallel approach is provided.


  • ATM keys. A business with ATMs that conform to the ADAAG requirements is not required to modify the ATM to meet the requirements of the 2010 ADAS.

It is important to note that the safe harbor rules apply only if the business has not made modifications to the particular component since March 15, 2012.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.


ADA Guidelines for Communication with Customers

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered entities to effectively communicate with individuals with disabilities. The purpose of these requirements is to guarantee that those with communication disabilities receive the same level of effective communication as non-disabled individuals. The ADA requirement for communication applies to both Title II entities (state and local governments) and Title III entities (businesses and non-profit organizations). A communication disability may include vision, hearing or speech disability which requires the individual to utilize an alternative method for communication.  How are covered entities required to ensure effective communication for those with related disabilities? Those covered by the ADA must provide:

  • Assistive devices to those with communication disabilities in order to facilitate communication. The ADA refers to these devices as “auxiliary aids and services”. The provision of auxiliary aids and services can refer to a variety of accommodations depending on the needs of the individual. For example, a deaf person must be offered the ability to communicate with the use of writing tools or sign language, or by providing a sign language interpreter or a note-taker.

  • Effective communication that adheres to these principles requires the covered entity to take into consideration the type and complexity of the communication and how that individual typically communicates. For example, in a retail context, the business might need to communicate via written or visual cues to assist a person who is deaf in deciding whether to purchase a product. In contrast, in a doctor’s office, an interpreter is usually necessary to accurately record the medical history of a deaf person.

  • An independent person to assist with communication and cannot rely on the use of another person (either an adult or minor) accompanying the disabled individual to act as an interpreter in most contexts. This rule does not apply if (i) in an emergency situation where the safety of an individual is an issue or (ii) the disabled individual requests that the accompanying adult act as an interpreter and such individual agrees provided the person assisting is not a minor.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.


Evaluating Compliance with Parking Lot Regulations

Every business owner should ensure that their parking facilities are in compliance with the regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Building Code (CBC) to avoid potential litigation. A business, government agency or other covered entity that restripesits parking lot must ensure that it provides accessible parking. Businesses are also required to remove barriers to access in existing parking lots in order to comply with their ADA obligations when it is feasible to do so. Restriping is relatively simple and inexpensive, and is therefore considered achievable in most circumstances.

  • Accessible parking spaces must be situated on the shortest route of travel to an accessible entrance to the facility. If the structure has multiple accessible entrances with parking in the vicinity, then the parking spaces should be dispersed throughout the parking area and located as close as possible to multiple entrances.
  • The width of van disabled parking spaces and standard double-parking spaces are measured centerline to centerline where parking spaces are delineated by lines. However, when such spaces and aisles are not adjacent to another parking space or accessible aisle, the width measurement can be made from the full width of the line.
  • The minimum length for disabled parking spaces is 216 inches long. The width of disabled parking spaces varies based on configuration.
  • Parking spaces must also have an adjacent access aisle (cross hatched area). Two parking spaces can have the same access aisle. Access aisles width varies based on configuration.
  • In California, access aisle perimeter boundary lines must be blue in color. The access aisle hatched lines are to be a maximum of 36 inches on center in white or blue. The words “NO PARKING” are to be within the access aisle in white letters that are at least 12 inches high and detectable from the adjacent path of vehicles.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.


Bills Introduced to Battle Serial ADA Filers

In response to continuing claims of predatory lawsuits by frequent filers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), various legislative measures have been introduced. These efforts seek to limit repeat serial plaintiffs and to provide businesses with a right to cure deficiencies prior to being subject to ADA suits. The architects of the legislation regard reform as necessary in light of the vast number of lawsuits filed by just a handful of plaintiffs in the state.

Extremely high-frequency litigantsAssembly Bill (AB) 913 in California is targeted at preventing “extremely high-frequency litigants” from proceeding with ADA claims without court approval. Under the legislation, the court would be required to enter an order preventing such a litigant from pursuing a filing without obtaining leave from a presiding judge where the litigation is to be filed. The judge would be required to confirm that the litigation is meritorious and has not been brought for a fraudulent purpose to permit a filing by an extremely high frequency litigant. The author of AB 913 believes that appointing judges as gatekeepers for ADA lawsuits will successfully minimize the recurrence of litigation by serial filers. In one report that served as the basis for the legislation, the California Commission on Disability Access found that 14 people brought 46% of all disability lawsuits in the state in 2014.

Cure periods. Unsuccessful legislation in the past has focused primarily on affording businesses with a “right to cure” period for deficiencies in their ADA compliance. House Resolution (H.R.) 1493 introduced in the United States House of Representatives is designed to institute similar requirements in favor of businesses that are threatened by ADA litigation. According to H.R. 1493, a suit under the ADA cannot be commenced until written notice is provided to the business owner to allow him to identify the barrier to access. Litigation cannot be initiated until after such notice is received and the owner fails to provide a written description of how such barrier will be cured after 60 days, or upon providing notice, the owner fails to remove the barrier after 120 days.  Similarly, H.R. 620 provides that civil actions for the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access at public accommodations are not permitted unless the potential plaintiff furnishes written notice to the owners and the owners fail to describe in written form the improvements to be made or fail to remediate the barrier.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.

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