Starbucks has a long history of litigation about the height of its pickup counters. In 2003 Starbucks settled a claim by a California disabilities rights group concerning the height of its pickup counters. In 2011 Starbucks obtained the dismissal of another pickup counter height lawsuit, Chapman v. Starbucks, 2011 WL 66823 (E.D.Cal. 1022) based on mootness. The counter had been lowered to comply with the ADA requirements. In 2012 Starbucks settled a case that included counter height allegations in the Southern District of Florida. Access 4 All, Inc. v. Starbucks, Case No. 0:11-cv-61010 (S.D. Fla.). The settlement terms do not appear in the record, but most ADA settlements include remediation plus attorney’s fees, so it is a reasonable guess that Starbucks had to lower the counters in the 4 stores at issue. Just a few days ago, on June 5, 2013, a different District Court awarded Robert Cruz some $145,960.07 in attorney’s fees for his successful action against Starbucks concerning one Starbucks store. The Consent Decree in that case called for lowering the pickup counter. Cruz v. Starbucks Corporation, 2013 WL 2447862 (N.D. Cal. 2013) and see Docket 29-1 in the underlying case, 3:10-cv-01868. More
Accessibility Litigation Trends
By richardhunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA FHA Litigation General, Public Facilities, Restaurants, Retail, Shopping Centers Tags: ada litigation, private lawsuits, real-estate, restaurants, retail, service animals
Imagine you are the operator of a paintball facility. A group of 15 blind individuals make a reservation without, however, mentioning they are blind. They arrive more than an hour late after a hike of several miles and are in a generally bad mood. One or two of them have trouble navigating the facility, with one running into a post and another almost falling off a deck. You conclude that they cannot, in the time available, learn to use the equipment and safely engage in the sport, so you decline to allow them to play. Naturally, you are sued under the ADA.
Another story of ADA absurdity? Not exactly. In Blind Industries & Services v. Route 40 Paintball Park, 2013 WL 1209649 (D.Md. 2013) the District Court concluded that under the circumstances it was reasonable for the owner to conclude that there was a direct threat to the More
Since I last blogged about obesity in March a pair of decisions from the Western District of Pennsylvania have taken up the question of obesity in connection with Title III lawsuits. Anderson v. Macy’s, Inc., 2013 WL 1857535 (W.D. Penn. 2013) and Anderson v. Kohl’s Corp., 2013 WL 1874812 (W.D. Penn 2013). The opinions are essentially identical, and make a number of points relevant to how businesses react to obesity as a disability under the ADA.
First, the Court did not accept as a foregone conclusion that the plaintiff’s obesity was in fact a disability. Notwithstanding the EEOC’s position on the issue, the Court reviewed cases from both before and after the 2008 More
Courts almost universally agree that the ADA does not require that a plaintiff give notice before filing suit. I have argued that while notice is not a procedural requirement, it should be implied as a substantive requirement for any claim based on a failure to remove barriers because one cannot fail to do something that one has not been asked to do. For a defendant in a barrier removal case there are other arguments to make as well. More
The liberal standing rules in the Ninth Circuit seems to benefit advocates for those with disabilities by allowing them to file suits that go far beyond any actual discrimination experienced by the plaintiff. However, this comes at a real cost because this kind of lawsuit encourages the courts and business owners to view “the disabled” as stereotypes rather than individuals. When the law treats everyone with a disability as an abstraction, it isn’t surprising if ordinary business people view the disabled in the same way.
The Ninth Circuit and some other circuits say that when a person with a mobility disability encounters a ramp that does not comply with the ADAAG standards he has suffered the discrimination that the ADA forbids, regardless of whether the steepness of the ramp actually interferes with his ability to use and enjoy the premises. Once he has encountered the non-compliant ramp it is presumed that any other failure to comply with the ADAAG in the same facility would also interfere with his use and enjoyment, at least if they violate guidelines related to mobility disabilities. The plaintiff is not treated as a person: He is treated as a “person with a mobility disability” whose relationship to architectural barriers is completely abstract. Is he proud of his strength and fitness, which makes a ramp that is slightly too steep irrelevant? It doesn’t matter. For purposes of the ADA the court will treat him as if he were weak. Has he developed strategies for overcoming things that might be barriers to others? It doesn’t matter. For purposes of the ADA the court will treat him as if he were completely helpless. More