Sometimes even surrender doesn’t work as a way to cut off the expense of litigation. A good Rule 68 offer of judgment will moot the claims and require dismissal under the holding in Deposit Guaranty National Bank v Roper, but making such an offer in an ADA lawsuit can be very difficult. A recent case from the Middle District of Florida, Duldulao v. La Creperia Café, illustrates the problem. The plaintiff’s complaint was, according to the court, “an obvious cut and paste job” that failed to give fair notice of the claim. The defendant’s offer of judgment was, of necessity, equally vague. The court concluded that because it could not meaningfully compare the offer of judgment to whatever relief might finally be granted the offer of judgment process was “unavailable.” It refused to dismiss based on the Rule 68 offer. More
Accessibility Litigation Trends
On July 17 of this year the District Court for the Southern District of California awarded attorney’s fees of $550,000 against Chipotle Mexican Grill in a lawsuit that had been pending since 2005. A month later, on August 28, the same Court refused to certify a class in a lawsuit brought by the same plaintiff alleging the same violations of the ADA. What happened in the two lawsuits is a perfect illustration of my own slogan for ADA defense, “Fix First Then Fight.” The story of these lawsuits also demonstrates the dangers associated with attacking the plaintiff instead of attacking the problem. More
It has been a relatively slow week for ADA accessibility filings in North Texas, with only one new lawsuit against a strip center in Plano. However, that new lawsuit provides a nice case study of the kinds of legal issues these cases raise.
The problems of standing mentioned in my last post are present in abundance. The plaintiff alleges that she went to the shopping center to visit a restaurant and “ran into” architectural barriers at the center. It is clear from the complaint itself that she didn’t run into all the barriers to access that she lists. For example, she claims that there is no accessible route to the center from the nearest public sidewalk and that there is not adequate accessible parking. If she took a car, then the public sidewalk wasn’t a problem for her. If she took a bus then the parking didn’t matter. She might have been injured by one kind of discrimination or the other, but not both. There are also general allegations of excessive slopes and a lack of accessible routes to “many of the businesses.” Since the plaintiff states that she visited the center to go to a specific restaurant the lack of accessible routes to other businesses could not have caused her any injury. More
Every few months another district court confronts the inherent tension between private enforcement of laws like the ADA and the standing requirements for individual litigants in the federal courts. The Constitution regards private lawsuits as a means to vindicate private rights, and the constitutional requirements for private litigants make an uneasy fit with the goal of promoting public policies concerning accessibility for those with disabilities. The Constitution requires that a private litigant have “ standing,” which means that the party ust have suffered an injury caused by the defendant that the courts can somehow fix. In ADA litigation neither the injury nor the court’s ability to fix it may be obvious. The result is a mishmash of inconsistent approaches to standing that leaves little certainty for litigants. More
In late July two lawsuits were filed in the Northern District of Texas that make a radical new claim under the ADA. The plaintiff claims that store owners violated the ADA by failing to keep those without disabilities from parking in accessible parking spaces. Just how the property owner is supposed to keep accessible parking free from poaching isn’t entirely clear. There is a suggestion that the owner should call the police, but the same lawyers also sued the City of Burleson claiming that was violating the ADA by failing to enforce accessible parking laws. If the owner calls the police and they don’t come has he done enough?
Also left unanswered is question of how much personal risk the owner or its employees are supposed to undertake in the cause of disability rights. Short of a polite request to the authorities there isn’t much an owner More