From owners of a stationary shop in West Palm Beach, to the man who controls hundreds of gas pumps across the state, they are among thousands of Florida business owners recently sued for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and unaware about a new Florida law that might have helped them fight the allegations.
"You didn't know about this law at all," investigative reporter Katie LaGrone asked Bill McKnight, President of Florida Automated Petroleum, a Brandon-based company that leases and owns hundreds of gas stations across Florida.
"No," answered McKnight a few months ago when we first posed the question. "I didn't know about it."
"This is not a magic pill, this is not enact the law and everything is better," said FL Representative Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach). He's the man behind the law, which took effect this summer to protect business owners from frivolous ADA lawsuits while encouraging compliancy.
The law (HB 727) lets business owners digitally file plans on how and when they plan to fix known ADA violations. Two months after the state finally got that website up and running, Leek is now spreading the word about it.
"The issue is making sure they're [business owners] educated on the program and how it works and then seeing if they sign up," said Leek.
It's an education rollout that will depend mostly on private partnerships and word of mouth business owners have been hungry for.
"There's nothing to educate me," said Sue Ellen Clarfield of Truffies stationary shop in West Palm Beach after she was sued for non-compliance last year.
In a state where "drive-by" lawsuits have become an epidemic, Leek hopes his new law will help cripple what many have been crying foul over for years.
"I think success will be when we look down the road and see that this cottage industry has died," said Leek.
To date, just two Florida business owners have taken advantage of this law and filed their ADA remediation plans with the state. To learn more about it click here.