A client of mine recently got a long letter from a defense firm informing it that it had been sued under the ADA and extolling its own expertise in defending website accessibility lawsuits. The letter laid out in some detail the defenses they were prepared to assert in a motion to dismiss, with a description of a possible standing argument, an the assertion that the ADA did not cover websites, and a due process claim based on the lack of regulations. More
ADA Web Access
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, FHA, FHA Emotional Support Animals, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Internet, Internet Accessibility, Reasonable accommodation, Rehabilitation Act Tags: ADA defense, ADA drive-by litigation, ADA Mootness, ADA website accessibility, FHA Defense, World Cup
Those of you who are not binge watching the World Cup matches will be interested in what has been going on in the world of disability rights during the last few weeks. Here is our roundup of recent ADA and FHA decisions, some of which are notable.
Indemnity and contribution for Fair Housing Act claims.
Shaw v. Cherokee Meadows, L.P. 2018 WL 2967708 (N.D.Okla. June 12, 2018) is another in a series of cases concerning indemnity for design/build defects under the FHA that gets it completely wrong and winds up with an absurd result. The decision has little in the way of discussion because it relies on the analysis from an earlier case, Equal Rights Center v. Niles Bolton Associates, 602 F.3d 597 (4th Cir. 2010). We’ve blogged on this issue before* but the arguments are worth repeating. Equal Rights Center based its analysis on earlier cases concerning race and similar kinds of intentional discrimination found that public policy precluded indemnity and contribution for FHA discrimination claims. In cases of intentional discrimination or respondeat superior it makes sense to forbid indemnity because you want to discourage bad intent and encourage proper supervision of employees. It doesn’t make any sense at all in design/build cases under Section 3104(f)(3)(C) because this is a “no fault” provision that can be violated without any intent to discriminate. Moreover, the owner of an apartment complex has no choice but to rely on 3rd party experts – architects and contractors – to properly design and build the apartments. When architects and contractors know that they are immune from liability for their failures they have no incentive to design and build according to FHA standards, and as a practical matter they are always immune because the first target in any lawsuit will be the owner. The Ninth Circuit has rejected Equal Rights Center for good reason, and if Shaw v. Cherokee Meadows is appealed the Tenth Circuit should reject it as well. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, DOJ Tags: ADA defense, ADA defense strategy, ADA Internet, ADA web, Usablenet, WCAG 2.1
The latest iteration of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines became effective with the publication of version 2.1. on June 5, 2018. The newest version adds an additional 17 success criteria for compliance with WCAG, 12 of which are part of success level 2, the level that has become a de facto standard for the ADA.* I’ve shared my thoughts on how this may change the ADA litigation landscape with Usablenet, which just published its overview of the changes in “New Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 – What When How.” In this blog I’d like to consider the deeper questions posed by this revision: Who gets to decide what discrimination means?
It is worthwhile to start with a look at the stated purpose of the ADA itself. The declaration of policy in 42 U.S.C. §12101 never uses the word “accessible” and refers to “access” only with respect to public services. The focus of the ADA is discrimination, and standards for accessibility are only part of Congress’ intent to “to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” (42 U.S.C. §12101(b)(2)). More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access Tags: ADA, ada litigation, Credit Union, CUNA, WCAG 2.0, Website litigation
It seems that CUNA, the Credit Union National Association has been slaying the dragon of serial website accessibility litigation.* In fact, the filing of a CUNA brief recently caused the plaintiff to just give up, dismissing the case voluntarily rather than face another unfavorable decision.** Looking at why CUNA has succeeded when the history of website litigation is mostly a story of defense failures points to an important rejection of standing based on dignitary harm, a rejection that may give defendants in non-credit union cases a useful argument of their own. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Web Access Tags: "drive-by" ADA lawsuits, ADA, ADA cheap standing, ADA standing, serial ADA filers
Cases decided in the last few weeks are mostly good for business, not because they fail to enforce the ADA, but because they refuse to let dubious serial filer claims get beyond the initial pleading stage. Here’s the lineup.
Standing and cheap standing
Cheryl Thurston v. FCA US LLC, et al., EDCV172183JFWSPX, 2018 WL 700939, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 26, 2018) is a district court decision that in some ways anticipates the 5th Circuit decisions we blogged about earlier this week. It is a web accessibility case and could be crucial in the effort to stop abusive serial litigation against websites. The plaintiff alleged in general terms that she had tried to use the defendant’s website to find a dealer and that she found barriers to access. She did not allege that she was unable to find a dealer, and for the Court this meant she had failed to allege an injury. This may seem obvious, but courts in the Ninth Circuit have a long history of holding that mere exposure to an inaccessible public accommodation is sufficient to state a claim under the ADA based on the notion that it makes the plaintiff feel bad to see ADA violations. Rejecting that argument and requiring at least an allegation of real injury would be a giant step forward for getting rid of abusive litigation. More