Utah lawmaker has a plan to fight ‘Drive By’ ADA lawsuits

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Members of the legislature’s Interim Judiciary Committee watched a 2017 Get Gephardt investigation Wednesday. It focused on what are called “Drive by lawsuits.”

Representative Norm Thurston played the report which showed how more than 100 Utah businesses have been sued over arguably-minor violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The businesses were then strong-armed into paying settlements to make the lawsuits go away, the business owners claimed in the report.

“Why would I have to pay $3000 to just let me know that this needs to be fixed,” Thurston testified to the committee. “You can do that in another way.”

Thurston has been working to try and curb drive by lawsuits, specifically requiring a business be given a chance to fix an ADA issue before being slapped with a suit.

“A business that has a violation deserves to be notified that they have a violation and then they should be expected to fix it,” he said. “The first thing most of these businesses see is a notice that they’ve been named in a federal lawsuit which is not what any small business owner wants to see.”

The trouble is Utah can’t pass a law that conflicts with federal law, like the ADA, Thurston acknowledges.

Thurston thinks he has a solution. He hopes to work with the Utah State Courts and the Utah State Bar to declare drive-by lawsuits unethical. Thurston testified that he has approached each and that each was receptive to the idea.

Wednesday’s meeting was largely to put lawmakers on notice that Rep. Thurston is working on the issue. No final decisions were made.