Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

ADA violations, questionable lawsuits focus of bill that passes House

A rash of lawsuits filed against small-business owners has prompted legislators to propose a change.

HF2955, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove), would add provisions to the Minnesota Human Rights Act governing civil lawsuits involving alleged violations of the act in relation to architectural and communication barriers in public places. The bill would provide new regulations, which would apply to attorneys sending demand letters and outline affirmative defenses for defendants.

Passed 82-45 as amended by the House Monday, the bill now goes to the Senate where Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) is the sponsor.

The bill is largely in response to frivolous lawsuits alleging Human Rights Act violations against businesses through demand letters. The demands were often seen as an effort to manipulate a defendant into reaching a monetary settlement, rather than take the claim to court.

“Small businesses across our state have been the targets of these legal actions,” Smith said at a House Civil Law and Data Practices Committee hearing earlier this year. “It seems the goal is cash and not the removal of any barriers. This bill seeks to facilitate access to our businesses for people with disabilities, while also addressing the unprincipled private litigation practices that have adversely impacted businesses across our state.”

Contentious House Floor discussion centered on the necessity of a demand letter as well as its requirements.

“There is no a single disability advocate at the Capitol that supports this bill as amended,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul). “This bill is throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

“This process has been a colossal effort [of multiple departments],” Smith said. “No one has contacted me in any way saying that they do not support this.”

WATCH Floor debate of the bill on YouTube

Changes include that a demand letter seeking removal of an architectural barrier would be required to specify the nature of the alleged violation, the law alleged to be violated and a reasonable time period of no less than 30 days to respond. A demand letter would be prohibited from requesting money to prevent a lawsuit from being filed, but would be required prior to proceeding with civil litigation.

A plaintiff would be prohibited from pursuing civil action if the potential defendant removes the barrier or demonstrates compliance with a remediation plan when the removal cannot be achieved by alternative means. If extenuating circumstances make it impossible to remove the barrier within 60 days of the notice, the plaintiff and the defendant may agree on a deadline for removal of the barrier. If they cannot agree, the plaintiff may proceed with civil action.

No changes would prohibit filing a complaint with the Department of Human Rights for a violation under the Human Rights Act.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public accommodations to provide goods and services to people with disabilities on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. According to the ADA, “People with disabilities should be able to arrive on the site, approach the building, and enter as freely as everyone else. … Regulations require that architectural and communication barriers that are structural must be removed in public areas of existing facilities when their removal is readily achievable.”

Related Articles

Priority Dailies

State Fair poll shows steady support for gun sale background checks, recreational marijuana
Support for criminal background checks on all gun sales and the legalization of marijuana for recreational use appears to have remained steady among Minnesotans during the past 12 months.
Governor signs special session budget bills into law
One week after a marathon special session that saw lawmakers pass most of the major budget bills needed to fund the state’s government over the next two years, Gov. Tim Walz signed the legislation into law.
After sunrise, the sun sets on 2019 special session
It took a grueling special session that stretched past sunrise, but Minnesota lawmakers completed their work early Saturday morning on passing a new two-year state budget.
House DFL outlines $47.8 billion 2020-21 spending proposal
The plan, dubbed the “Minnesota Values Budget,” would increase spending by $416.9 million over the 2020-21 biennium’s projected base budget.
Budget forecast: Projected surplus drops by almost $500 million, still tops $1 billion
The state has a $1.05 billion projected budget surplus for the upcoming biennium, Minnesota Management and Budget officials announced Thursday.
Walz budget would raise gas tax, emphasize education, health care
Education, health care and community prosperity are key targets for funding in the 2020-21 biennial budget proposed by Gov. Tim Walz.
Committee deadlines for 2019 unveiled
Legislators and the public officially know the timeline for getting bills through the committee process.

Minnesota House on Twitter