Sen. Nick Frentz key player in passage of ADA legislation
Saint Paul, Minn – State Senator Nick Frentz (DFL-North Mankato) announced passage today of legislation to protect businesses from questionable lawsuits regarding disability access to businesses. Under the guise of improving disability access, businesses, including several in the Greater Mankato area, were sued over various disability access issues, often leading to significant settlement agreements to avoid legislation.
“We worked many long hours to find a compromise and balance that all sides could agree to,” said Frentz. “We want to make sure that businesses are complying with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to provide fair access to those living with disabilities, but we also need to provide a level playing field in the courtroom for businesses.”
Some of the changes to the ADA bill include:
- Notification: The main focus of the new legislation states that if a person has an attorney or is an attorney, they must send a notice of architectural barrier before bringing a civil action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). This language was included in the bill Frentz introduced earlier this session (SF 2168) and Frentz worked with stakeholders to ensure it was included.
- Changes reasonable response time: The legislation increases the reasonable response time for a defendant from 30 to 60 days and allows establishments an extra 30 days before a civil action may be brought, if the establishment indicates in writing an intent to remove the barrier but claims that weather has prevented the timely removal.
- Civil action: The legislation also regulates a person who is not represented by an attorney, but retains an attorney within 60 days of filing a civil action. The provision requires the attorney to provide a dated notice to the defendant that adheres to the notice requirements of the bill. The provision also allows the defendant to serve an answer to the complaint within 60 days of the notice or service of the complaint, whichever is later.
- Reporting changes: The legislation adds a new section into law that suspends the one year statute of limitation in which a civil action may be brought during the possible additional 30-day weather delay. This conforms to current law regarding response periods.
- Exemptions: The report exempts a person not represented by an attorney and a person who challenges an audit of a certified professional from filing a notice.
“Last year the legislature passed a law (H.F. 2955/S.F. 2584) meant to address the actions of some attorneys filing claims to collect settlement money thought to be out of proportion to damages suffered by the plaintiff. Most believe that the motivation should, instead, be on improving access for people living with disabilities,” Sen. Frentz said. “Although this bill passed and was signed into law, stakeholders had continued concerns as the lawsuits against businesses were still being initiated. This compromise language strikes a balance between stopping questionable lawsuits and ensuring businesses comply with our ADA laws. I want to thank advocates for people living with disabilities and Greater Mankato Growth for helping me shape a position that could attract bipartisan support for this bill.”
Supporters of the legislation include: MDHR, MCOD, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Legal Aid