Christmas is over with lumps of coal and sugar plums distributed in ways that often seem unrelated to who has been naughty or nice. Regular readers will see just how little has changed in the course of 2019 despite some important defense victories in the Sixth and Eight Circuits. With most ADA litigation centered in New York, California and Florida the serial litigation business will almost certainly continue to thrive in 2020.
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, FHA, FHA Advertising, FHA Class Actions, Internet Accessibility, Uncategorized Tags: ADA defense, FHA Defense, Legal Justice Advocates, website accessibility, Yvette Harrell
There’s a new kid on the block in the world of serial accessibility demands.** It’s not a boy band, its “Legal Justice Advocates.” They’ve been sending demand letters to apartment owners, mortgage lenders and real estate agents claiming to represent an outfit called “Victims Awareness, Inc.” which, they claim, is a “national not-for-profit” with disabled members “throughout the nation.” Victims Awareness, Inc., they claim, uses experienced testers (who are not claimed to be disabled) to check on the accessibility of websites. The firm then sends a demand requiring remediation of unspecified defects and money for the lawyers. After seeing a few of these and getting calls from lawyers who saw more I thought it would be worthwhile to take a longer look at the firm and its supposed client. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Class Actions, ADA Internet Web, ADA Mootness, ADA Web Access, FHA, Uncategorized Tags: ADA defense, ADA web access, driveby lawsuits, FHA Defense, Serial filers
Being slow but steady the tortoise, as we all know, won the race. The picture on the left tells you the strategy I ended up using. In any case the news is current as of November 14, the last day I checked for new ADA and FHA decisions. There’s plenty of interest, as usual.
A pre-emptive strike on website accessibility succeeds.
The plaintiff in Expensify, Inc. v. White, 2019 WL 5295064 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 18, 2019) sought to take matters into its own hands and local court by suing a pair of serial website filers for a declaratory judgment that its website was not in violations of the ADA. The defendants almost immediately agreed to waive their claims, presumably because they did not want to litigate without the home field advantage they command in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff was not content and tried to keep the case alive, but the Court found the waivers mooted its claims. The key finding is that there was a dispute justifying the complaint for declaratory relief. It is only a district court decision, but Defendants who receive a demand letter without a lawsuit should consider this kind of pre-emptive strike as a good way to avoid an unfriendly jurisdiction. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA FHA Litigation General, FHA, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Reasonable accommodation Tags: FHA accommodation, FHA Defense, FHA may be necessary, Salute v Stratford Greens, Shaw v Habitat
One of the more frequently quoted cases dealing with the relationship between the FHA and poverty is Salute v. Stratford Greens Garden Apartments, 136 F.3d 293, 301 (2d Cir. 1998). In Stratford the Second Circuit wrote that the FHA “addresses the accommodation of handicaps, not the alleviation of economic disadvantages that may be correlated with having handicaps.” The 11th Circuit’s decision in Schaw v. Habitat for Humanity, 938 F.3d 1259 (11th Cir. Sept. 18, 2019) takes up the question of just where one draws the line between disability discrimination and economic discrimination. Along the way it also clarifies who gets to decide what accommodation is required and just what “necessary” means. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Mootness, FHA, FHA design/build litigation, FHA Emotional Support Animals Tags: ADA defense, ADA Stadium, ADA standing, ADA Website Litigation, FHA Defense, Olmstead
A hodgepodge, I just learned, is a not just a word for a confusing mixture, but also the name of a vegetable stew. The FHA and ADA decisions of the last few weeks may not be tasty, but they are varied. I’ve put the FHA case first because it involved an unforced error and illustrates why landlords of all sizes need to be aware of what the FHA permits and denies.
FHA disability claims – get it right the first time.
In Root v. Salazar, 2019 WL 4040405 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 27, 2019) made a critical mistake. Having in hand a legitimate non-discriminatory reason to refuse to rent he instead made an excuse that probably seemed more legitimate but wasn’t. The legitimate excuse was the tenant’s lack of steady income. The FHA does not require that landlords take financial risks to accommodate disabled tenants. The illegitimate excuse was that the duplex in question did not meet the FHA’s accessibility guidelines. A fundamental principle under the FHA, ADA and other similar disability laws is that the tenant gets to decide what he or she needs. It may seem helpful to tell a prospective tenant why they should rent elsewhere, but if the tenant is disabled or a member of a protected class that helpfulness will look like illegal discrimination. More