A new regulation from the Justice Department will require “public-access swimming pools across the country to install handicapped-accessible ramps and lifts or face a fine of up to $100,000,” the Hill reports. This regulation could cost “hotels and other organizations . . . to spend up to $9,000 to stay in compliance with the rule.”
The elevators must be permanent structures, not portable ones, though many hotels across the country only realized this “clarification” to the Justice Department’s regulation recently. Hotel operators, especially, are now scrambling to be in compliance.
The regulation itself falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Some believe the big winner in this new rule is trial lawyers. As the Washington Examiner reports, “the ADA … empowered citizens to sue businesses that are not in compliance with DOJ guidelines.” So any hotel—or public pool operator—not in compliance with the Justice Department’s mandate will possibly face legal action.
As the Examiner reports:
"The enforcement is going to be by litigation," said Kevin Maher, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the American Hotel & Lodging Association. "A lot of drive-by lawsuits against business by law firms that are set up file to file spurious ADA claims."
These firms "often file lawsuits against every business in the community. A lot of times they are not even looking for businesses to comply with the ADA, they are just looking for a quick cash settlement to go away," Maher explained.
The Examiner speculates that permanent pool elevators might by themselves be a risk. “The permanent lifts will be a magnet for children to play on, and because they are not designed for that, odds are good that some will get hurt. But then again, each injured kid is just another payday for trial attorneys.”
In a statement, Senator Jim DeMint expressed concern over the new mandate and worried, also, that “It could lead to increased litigation.”
"This is another one-size-fits-all big government mandate that could have a negative impact on Americans," DeMint told the Examiner. "It could lead to increased litigation and heavy fines that could force pools to close or raise fees on families. Pools with public access should have the flexibility to work directly with people with disabilities to accommodate their needs."
There might be hope, though, for pool owners and operators. South Carolina Republican senators DeMint and Lindsey Graham introduced legislation earlier in the week that “would prevent the attorney general from enforcing any rule related to public pools,” as the Hill reports.