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Puerto Rico Senate to investigate ‘drive-by lawsuits’

By on May 30, 2017

SAN JUAN – The Senate unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to investigate “frivolous lawsuits” related to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination and stipulates requirements for business establishments.

Senate Resolution 187 proposes investigating the so-called “drive-by” or “Google” lawsuits, whereby people go from business to business threatening owners with suing them to comply with the ADA Act to receive money in out-of-court settlements.

“This resolution is to investigate this … Certain individuals have been identified, lawyers who are doing this,” said the author of the measure and spokesman of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate, Eduardo Bhatia.

Eduardo Bhatia (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

In this regard, the spokesman for the New Progressive Party (NPP) in the upper chamber, Carmelo Ríos, said he knows of an attorney “who has more than 170 lawsuits” using the ADA Act against businesses.

“This person drives from business to business,” Ríos said during the session. “In the report with the 170 lawsuits, none has been followed through, all have been dismissed.” He added that all the filings have the same six claimants. “We want compliance with the law, but we also know it is being used for an illegal practice.”

The bill’s summary also refers to a lawyer who, “through the use of the same group of complainants, is engaged in harassing and prosecuting small- and midsize-business people, based on alleged violations of the ADA Act.”

“The lawyer communicates directly with the business people, pointing out a series of violations to the law and indicating that if they do not correct them and provide monetary compensation in the thousands of dollars to their clients, they will sue them in federal court,” the summary further reads.

The purpose of the resolution is also to determine how the Legislative Assembly should act in such cases.

The upper chamber also approved Senate Bill 34 to create a pilot program to employ people with Asperger’s Syndrome and Highly Functional Autism, which would be overseen by the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration.

In addition, Senate Bill 48 was approved to create the Public System Supervisory Personnel Training Act, so that government supervisors attend periodic training. Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz’s bill, however, does not include the fiscal impact it will have on the government.

The Senate also passed resolutions to investigate the impact of the economic crisis on the elderly and alleged Medicare Advantage insurer practices of not honoring procedure fees to providers established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

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