PATEL | STILWELL, THE San Diego-based law firm that defended numerous hoteliers against Americans with Disabilities Act related lawsuits, is dissolving. However, founding partner Darshan Patel, who plans to focus more of his attention on other investments in South America and the Pacific Rim, will still represent some clients in his scaled-down individual practice.
Patel formed the firm with Andrew Stilwell in October 2016 with the goal of defending hoteliers against ADA lawsuits. “As many of you know, we were very successful in not rolling over to the unscrupulous lawyers on the other side,” Patel said.
During the course of its existence the firm represented 423 clients. However, Patel said his new business ventures will not allow him to provide the same level of responsiveness to the same number of clients.
“However, helping the community will always be a core tenet of mine,” Patel said. “Therefore, I have started the Law Offices of Darshan Patel, APC, where I will still be able to serve the community.”
Stilwell also will continue in an individual practice to represent the firm’s non-ADA related cases.
Fighting “drive-by” lawsuits, in which attorneys target hotels and other businesses for minor violations of the law, has been a priority for hoteliers and lodging associations for some time. They have been lobbying for the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this year and is still awaiting action in the Senate.
Along with requiring the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice to create a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on making public accommodations accessible to people with disabilities, it sets specific conditions that must be met before civil action can be brought against a business alleged to be in violation of the ADA.
First, the party making the allegation must provide the business owner with written notice that specifically identifies the barrier to accessibility. The notice must include the address of the property where the barrier was encountered, the specific ADA sections it supposedly violates, whether the aggrieved party requested assistance in removing the barrier and whether the barrier was permanent or temporary.
The business owner must then respond in writing to outline their remedy to the problem, and they then must remove the barrier or make “substantial progress” after providing the description. It does not state a specific time limit for when the barrier must be completely removed.