HB 23-1032 seems to solicit lawsuits by trial lawyers to file discrimination lawsuits against small business owners on behalf of people with disabilities.
Why claim disability discrimination? For emotional distress, that’s why. And that emotional distress can be worth $250,000 to $500,000 in court. Attorney’s fees can be awarded on top of that.
Costs, Legal Fees and an Opportunity for Bigger Paydays:
Of course, the proposed bill doesn’t even allow those who might be in “violation” an opportunity to come into compliance with it on an obscure and strictly construed provision of it. That’s because the proposed law HB 23-1032 doesn’t even require the exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to filing suit. In fact, the exhaustion of administrative remedies was specifically omitted from the bill. On top of that, HB 23-1032 doesn’t just allow the court to award legal fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff. It seems to require such an award not only of actual monetary damages, but for the emotional distress too. Wasn’t the exhaustion of administrative remedies supposed to thwart this potential flood of lawsuits? No, it wasn’t intended for that purpose at all. It was omitted from the bill in question to allow trial lawyers an opportunity at bigger paydays. After all, the trial lawyers are one of the biggest donors to the party that’s perennially in power in Denver.
Accessibility Isn’t Increased.
Proponents of HB 23-1032 maintain that it holds a velvet hammer over the heads of business owners, so they don’t drag their collective heels in remedying existing problems. Critics call it an invitation for “drive-by lawsuits.” The proposed legislation doesn’t even offer the business owner an opportunity to remedy the problem before being sued. The proposed legislation isn’t going to increase accessibility though. It just opens the floodgates of litigation. Small business owners are the ones’ who would be hit the hardest by a fringe minority of unscrupulous lawyers who are punching them right in the gut. Mom and Pop will be out of business in no time.
If trial lawyers really want small business owners to comply with HB 12-1032, they need a lesson in geography, and learn that Colorado is in the United States of America. Due process of law is fundamental to our constitution. Make sure they’re aware that exhaustion of administrative remedies is part of due process. Jumping from the frying pain into the fire of trial lawyers does nothing to remedy the problem. It only adds fuel to the fire. If the trial lawyers and the State of Colorado wish to make public places more accessible to people with disabilities, they might certainly have the right to legislate for it, but a civil penalty of $250,000 to $500,000 for emotional distress plus legal fees? Give the little guy a break. Give him the administrative procedure that he needs before litigation.