On October 2, while the news covered President Trump’s admission to Walter Reed for treatment of Covid-19, Congressmen Lou Correa (D-CA) and Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced the bipartisan Online Accessibility Act, which they claim will “increase website accessibility and reduce predatory lawsuits filed against businesses.”¹ Will it work? That’s a reasonable question.
ADA Litigation Procedure
By Richard Hunt in ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - Hotels, ADA - Standing, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Voting Rights, FHA, Interactive Process, Internet Accessibility, Public Facilities, Reasonable accommodation, Stadiums Tags: ADA defense, ADA standing, Braille gift cards, Catalina Express, FHA Defense, Greyhound, Nanette Brown, Peter Strojnik, Scott Johnson, Stadium Sightlines, Tom Hanks, voting rights
The title of today’s blog recognizes the gift bestowed by Judge Nannette Brown on everyone interested in the ADA in all its many details. Bailey v. Bd. of Commissioners of Louisiana Stadium and Exposition Dist., 2020 WL 5309962 (E.D. La. Sept. 4, 2020) is the latest of Judge Brown’s decisions concerning the dispute over stadium seating in the Superdome. Written after trial, the 64 page decision methodically dissects the law concerning concerning which standards apply to what parts of a facility after alterations, what the sight-line requirements for stadiums are under the various standards, including an exposition of the law concerning Auer deference and the effect of Kisor v. Wilke, how Title II program accessibility requirements fit into design/build standards, what kind of control is required for a person to be an “operator” of a public accommodation, when and how the “reasonable modification” requirement in Title III of the ADA applies to Title II entities, and last but not least the extent to which Title I’s “interactive process” requirement might apply to Titles II and III. The Fifth Circuit, and maybe the Supreme Court, will have the last word in this case, but if you are looking for a quick reference to almost every issue that comes up in a case involving altered facilities you can find it in this decision.¹ More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Mootness Tags: ADA defense, Braille gift cards, COVID-19, mootness, negligence and ADA, Readily Achievable, Service Counters, Strojnik, Voting Rights Alabama
Here’s a very unhappy looking King Richard III contemplating the murder of his nephews and possible rivals for the throne, or perhaps the latest headlines. While the latest cases on accessibility law don’t usually look like light reading, right now they are a cheery diversion from the rest of world events. Here we go:
Voting Rights and the ADA
Mootness done right, eventually
Johnson v. Montpelier One LLC, 2020 WL 3268613 (N.D. Cal. June 17, 2020) appears to be on the way to dismissal for mootness, but only after a false start with an affidavit that did not state in sufficient detail how the alleged architectural barriers had been remediated. Mootness is the best defense to a physical access case under the ADA, but cutting corners with a conclusory affidavit won’t get you there.
Accessible counters – a Ninth Circuit victory for common sense.
Kong v. Mana Inv. Co., LLC, 2020 WL 3265179 (9th Cir. June 17, 2020), Johnson v. Starbucks Corp., 2020 WL 3265063, at *1 (9th Cir. June 17, 2020) and Lindsay v. Starbucks Corp., 19-55738, 2020 WL 3265180, at *2 (9th Cir. June 17, 2020). Are a trio of Ninth Circuit rulings on an issue that has been litigated frequently: Does the counter length requirement in the ADA require that the counter be free of clutter? The answer is a definitive no, at least in the 9th Circuit. *
Braille gift cards and the ADA – the answer is no.
Another federal court declines supplemental jurisdiction over Unruh Act claims
In Schutza v. Enniss Family Realty LLC et al 2020 WL 3316969 (S.D. Cal. June 18, 2020) another federal judge in California declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over an Unruh Act claim, depriving the plaintiff of the damage remedy that drivers higher settlements in California. The decision is not unique* but other courts disagree with the arguments for declining supplemental jurisdiction. Until the 9th Circuit rules on this issue the rule will be to know your judge because these decisions are being made on a court by court level.
Negligence and the ADA
Strojnik again – and perhaps in real trouble.
Peter Strojnik is a prolific litigator who does not always lose, but may have pushed his luck too far. In Strojnik v. Village 1017 Coronado, Inc., 2020 WL 3250608 (S.D. Cal. June 16, 2020) his claims were dismissed for lack of standing because he never visited the defendant hotel, but in its discussion the Court noted that in another case:
the Court has an evidentiary hearing scheduled for July 24, 2020 on the issue of whether Plaintiff should be declared a vexatious litigant in part for misrepresenting his disability status in that complaint.
Strojnik has already been declared a vexatious litigant by another Federal Court in California and was disbarred in his home state of Arizona. See, Strojnik v. IA Lodging Napa First LLC, 2020 WL 2838814 (N.D. Cal. June 1, 2020). He remains unrepentant and undeterred because there are few effective remedies against those who abuse the legal system and even fewer judges willing to take strong action against lawyers and non-lawyers who use the system to wreck legal and economic havoc on the lives of innocent business owners.
Pleading the “readily achievable” standard.
Girotto v. LXC, Inc. et al, 2020 WL 3318275 (S.D.N.Y. June 18, 2020) includes a number of little lessons. For example, it is not basis for early dismissal to call the plaintiff a liar because the Court assumes the allegations in the complaint are true. It does touch on an issue on which not all courts agree; that is, whether the plaintiff must plead that removal of architectural barriers is readily achievable. This Court says no; the plaintiff must prove the remediation is readily achievable at trial, but does not need to plead it. Other courts have disagreed**, so know your court and judge is, as usual, the rule.
The danger of being the enforcer
Advocacy or idiocy? A blogger prevails
* I have blogged about this trend several times, most recently in Blogathon – not so quick hits on the ADA and FHA.
² I should say I have a personal interest in this, having been threatened many times with suits for defamation based on my blogs. So far no one has had the nerve to follow through on those threats, but there is clearly a segment of the ADA plaintiffs’ bar that doesn’t like those who tell the truth about their business.
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, FHA, FHA design/build litigation, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Internet Accessibility, Title II Tags: ADA defense, ADA Mootness, ADA Website Litigation, Bike share programs, Dana Bowman, Eric Calhoun, FHA Defense, Peter Strojnik, unruh act
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.
Personal jurisdiction over website owners
By Richard Hunt in ADA, ADA Litigation Procedure, Public Facilities, Title II Tags: ADA defense, ADA Title II, continuing violation, FHA Defense, Hamer v Trinidad, repeated violations, Statute of limitations, Supreme Court, Tenth Circuit
I blogged about the 10th Circuit’s decision in Hamer v City of Trinidad earlier this year.* The City has now filed a Petition for Certiorari that may well take the case to the Supreme Court because the issues and conflict between the Circuits are well defined.**
The heart of the dispute concerns a novel doctrine invented by the Tenth Circuit, the “repeated violations doctrine.” Under this doctrine every Title II entity has an immediate obligation to fix every problem with accessibility everywhere, and its failure to do so constitutes a new ADA violation every day. The age of the facility doesn’t matter because the obligation is to fix things regardless of when they were built. A sidewalk built a century before passage of the ADA must be fixed in the same way a sidewalk built last week must be fixed. Other Circuits have refused to impose this kind of endless liability, tying the limitations period either to the when the facility was built or renovated or to the date the plaintiff first suffered an injury, and refusing to find a generalized obligation to fix things that did not violate the law when they were built. More