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MEALEY PUBLICATIONS ISSUES REPORT ON THE ADA

 WAYNE, Pa., Feb. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The far-reaching Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) -- enacted by the federal government to bring the nation's 45 million disabled into the country's mainstream -- has already fostered claims that could cost American businesses millions of dollars in fines, legal fees, damages and costs to provide "reasonable accommodations."
 At least 34 lawsuits have been filed in courts across the country, while another 6,100 administrative claims have been lodged with either the Department of Justice or the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). Some accommodation settlements have already been reached.
 Enacted in 1990, the ADA was designed to help eliminate discrimination against the disabled, bring them into the country's mainstream, provide enforceable standards against discrimination and put the government at the center of enforcing these standards. The law took effect in January 1992.
 As reported in the first issue of "Mealey's Litigation Report: ADA," litigation is primarily in the public access area, the most typical case being a man who cannot enter a store or restaurant because the establishment has no wheelchair ramp. The same is true for the more than 1,800 claims filed with the Justice Department, which has jurisdiction over public access. Nearly half of those claims involve wheelchair accessibility, according to the report.
 Restaurant chains and sports arenas have been the biggest targets of suits. In Texas, one plaintiff accounts for 15 separate cases. The Justice Department itself has filed one case.
 "The ADA is proving to be a wieldy weapon for the disabled in the area of public access," said Tom Hagy, editor of the report. At least five court decisions have come down in favor of access, the most recent being a federal court order directing the City of Philadelphia to install curb ramps when it resurfaces roads. Three settlements of lawsuits were reported, and the Justice Department reports that more and more administrative claims are being resolved.
 When it sues on behalf of an individual, the Justice Department can seek monetary damages, and civil penalties of up to $50,000 for the first violation and $100,000 for subsequent violations. Individuals suing for public access and accommodations cannot obtain damages under the ADA, but frequently seek damages under accompanying emotional distress and other claims. Defendants in these cases also face legal fees, costs and accommodation expenses.
 In the area of employment discrimination, most of the action has been at the EEOC, which has received 4,300 so-called charges, nearly half of which involve alleged discriminatory discharges.
 The EEOC has one lawsuit on the books, involving a man discharged allegedly because he has brain cancer. The case is set for trial in Chicago next month.
 To illustrate the types of costs companies face, the EEOC seeks compensation from its first ADA defendant for the discharged employee's insurance costs and costs of seeking new employment, plus damages for his alleged emotional distress and mental anguish.
 "We expect to see more litigation in the employment area once the administrative charges before the EEOC ripen and claimants are allowed to file suit," Hagy said. Claimants must file charges with the EEOC, and then sit out a 180-day waiting period before they secure a right to sue, Hagy explained.
 Alleged discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS was raised in both the public access and employment area. An Ohio man sued a hospital for denying him treatment for an adverse drug reaction because of his HIV infection, and the EEOC director in New York found that an AIDS exclusion in a self-insured union health plan was discriminatory.
 For more information, contact Tom Hagy with Mealy Publications Inc. at 215-688-6566. Mealey also publishes reports on environmental insurance, reinsurance, insurance insolvency, insurance bad faith, asbestos, lead, breast implants, D&O liability, intellectual property, Superfund, tobacco, toxic torts, punitive damages, and international arbitration.
 /delval/
 -0- 2/19/93
 /CONTACT: Tom Hagy of Mealey Publications, 215-688-6566, or weekends, 609-384-1322/


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Date:Feb 19, 1993
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