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Wed May 23, 2012
Disability Advocates Troubled by Bill
The Senate has agreed with a House bill that critics say will make it harder to improve access for people with disabilities.
Under current state law, if someone successfully sues a building owner over ADA violations, they are awarded legal fees.
The new bill would leave the matter of fee reimbursement to court discretion.
Proponents of the measure say the move is an attempt to align state and federal law.
But Michael Skibbie with the New Hampshire Disabilities Rights Center see it as a move to limit ADA compliance lawsuits.
If this bill becomes law, he predicts it will wind up hurting business interests.
"It means there is very little incentive for people to bring their cases in state court, but rather will bring them in federal court, which means NH businesses will no longer have the advantage of trying to fix the problem to avoid a lawsuit."
State law gives building owners 9 months to update their property to code before a lawsuit can go forward.
Skibbie says federal suits are more expensive for both sides and can take longer to resolve.