SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The owner of an iconic local burger joint is teaming up with a congressman in an attempt to pass a federal law giving business owners breathing room from expensive lawsuits over handicap access.
Travis Hausauer, the owner of the Squeeze Inn, was forced to close down his original restaurant location after an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit complained that the structure’s tiny size discriminated against the disabled.
“It was an older, kind of eclectic place,” Hausauer said. “There’s quite a few of them in California that have had to close down now because of the ADA laws.”
Hausauer said he couldn’t afford to fix the building and pay the lawyers, so he closed and moved the restaurant to a new location.
The lawsuit was filed by an attorney who has filed nearly 400 other similar ADA lawsuits.
“Drive-by lawsuits” citing the ADA has become a chronic legal issue in California, according to Civil Justice Association of California legislative director Katherine Pettibone.
“Often times it isn’t actually about increasing access, it’s about going in and making a demand for money. ‘Pay me and I’ll go away,’ ” Pettibone said.
Congressman Dan Lungren (R-3rd District) has introduced a bill that would allow business owners facing ADA non-compliance complaints a two-month window to fix their building before an ADA lawsuit could ever be filed.
Hausauer said he believes the legislation would have saved the original Squeeze Inn.
“In the long run, we’re a success story, but there are so many other businesses who just shut their doors and you never hear about them,” he said.
Lungren’s bill will soon head to the Congress Judiciary Committee. There is no scheduled timeline for when the bill will be heard on the Congress floor.