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By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA FHA Litigation General, DOJ, municipal government, Public Facilities, Title II Tags: accessible facilities, cities, project civic access, sidewalks
Does this look like a “service, program or activity?” The official position of the Department of Justice is that every city facility – sidewalks, buildings and the like – must be made accessible because building and maintaining those facilities is a “service, program or activity” of the city. The Fifth Circuit agreed in what has been a leading case on this issue, Frame v. City of Arlington. Now it appears this view is not unanimous. Just a month ago, in Babcock v. Michigan, 2016 WL 456213, (6th Cir. Feb. 5, 2016) the Sixth Circuit found that the Fifth Circuit was wrong, and that:
CityVision Services, Inc. has recently filed a number of complaints with HUD under the Fair Housing Act. Those I am familiar with all follow the same pattern. Someone from CityVision calls an apartment complex asking about pet deposit policies and then mentions a therapy animal. The manager or leasing agent makes the mistake of saying all animals require a pet deposit. No one ever comes to the complex or makes a rental application, but CityVision files a Fair Housing complaint on its own behalf as a “tester.” The apartment owners I’ve spoken with were all located in East Texas, but the extent of this particular effort by CityVision Services is impossible to tell because HUD complaints are not public. More
On February 9 Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson issued a 45 page decision denying a Motion to Dismiss in National Association of the Deaf v. Harvard University, Case No. 3:15-cv-30023-MGM in the District of Massachusetts. This is not the place for a detailed analysis of the opinion, but for ordinary businesses there is quite a bit less to this than some sources suggest.
The first statute discussed in Magistrate Robertson’s opinion is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This statute applies to programs or activities receiving federal assistance. While federal assistance programs are pervasive, the vast majority of businesses are not subject to Section 504, and so the arguments concerning its application don’t apply at all. More
A recent case from Maryland, Bray v. Marriott Int’l, 2016 WL 319873, at *1 (D. Md. Jan. 27, 2016) serves as a reminder that violations of ADA accessibility standards may also serve as evidence of negligence in a personal injury case. When I last wrote about this subject in 2013 (click the following link to read my post Personal injury damages for ADA violations – it can happen.) the case law covered the spectrum from ADA violations being prima facie proof of negligence to ADA violations being no evidence at all of negligence. At the same time, it appears likely that compliance with the relevant ADA standard for physical accessibility cannot be considered negligence because the ADA preempts differing state law standards (click the following link to read my post Pool lifts and preemption of state tort claims.) Bray adds another jurisdiction to the list of those in which an ADA violation is evidence of negligence. More