The Rolling Stones famously asked that they be rolled like a pair of tumbling dice, and looking at recent Title III ADA headlines reminded me of just what a crapshoot ADA litigation can be. The good news for businesses is that the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles have filed suit against the Potter Handy firm and its partners alleging that the firm filed false lawsuits under the ADA.¹ Hard on the heels of the action by the local authorities a federal judge in San Francisco, Vince Chhabria, entered a series of show cause orders requiring the Potter Handy firm and its clients to file sworn declarations providing factual support for their allegations concerning having visited and intending to visit ADA defendants in the future.² I don’t know how Potter Handy and its clients will respond to these orders, or what Judge Chhabria will do with those responses, but within days of these actions a federal judge in San Jose entered an all too typical order allowing a case to proceed despite being more or less identical to those being handled by Judge Chhabria. Sevens or snake eyes, in ADA Title III matters defendants and plaintiffs are at the mercy of the random assignment of judges done with each federal lawsuit filed. More
By Richard Hunt in ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Mootness, FHA, Uncategorized Tags: ADA defense, ADA standing, ADA statute of limitations, ADA website, FHA Defense, serial litigation
It turns out that the story about Benjamin Franklin wanting the wild turkey to be the U.S. National Bird is a myth, I’m not willing to get into the politics of the annual pardoning of turkeys by the President, and I don’t have Wild Turkey in my liquor cabinet so here instead are the latest ADA and FHA decisions.
Another critical case on injury and standing, this time in the context of limitations.
In Karantsalis v. City of Miami Springs, Fla.,2021 WL 5279406 (11th Cir. Nov. 12, 2021) the Eleventh Circuit made a critical distinction between having a disability and being injured because of that disability that has implications beyond the immediate limitations issue. The question was when the plaintiff’s ADA claim against the City accrued. If it accrued when he first learned that he had multiple sclerosis in 2008 then his claims were barred by limitations. If it accrued when his symptoms progressed to the point that he could no longer use City facilities in 2019 then his lawsuit was timely. The Court found that despite having a disability the plaintiff had not been injured until his disability interfered with use of City services:
Karantsalis argues on the other hand that the district court incorrectly determined that his claims accrued in 2008. Instead, he contends that his claims did not accrue until he had suffered both (1) a disability, and (2) an injury (his inability to readily access and use the City’s services by reason of his disability). Under the ADA, Karantsalis was not injured (and therefore did not have standing) until after he was denied the benefits of the City’s public services.
As a statute of limitations case this decision is important for any municipality faced with ADA litigation over services like sidewalks that are in place for decades. It is equally important as part of the trend of recognizing that standing to sue requires a real, rather than a hypothetical injury. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Bars, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Mootness, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: accessible bar seating, ADA defense, ADA Mootness, FHA Defense, Robles v Dominos, Strojnik
The constellation Canis Major rises and falls with the sun during the hottest part July and August; hence the “dog days of summer.” Although only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun* the courts have been busy working in air conditioned chambers on ADA and FHA matters:
Just what is an accessible website?
The first sentence of this injunction seems to violate the general rule against injunctions that simply order compliance with the law. See, e.g., E.E.O.C. v. AutoZone, Inc., 707 F.3d 824, 842 (7th Cir. 2013). As the Court observes, there are no regulatory requirements for websites, so the first sentence is just an order to follow the ADA. More
By Richard Hunt in ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Mootness, ADA Web Access, FHA, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Hotels, Internet Accessibility, Landlord-tenant, Policies and Procedures FHA ADA Tags: ADA and Uber, ADA defense, ADA hotel litigation, ADA tester standing, ADA vexatious litigation, ADA Website Litigation, ASL interpreters, FHA Defense, FHA disability discrimination, Unruh Act supplemental jurisdiction
If foolishness were limited to one day a year this blog would be well overdue, but a glance at the news – legal, political or other, shows that every day in April can be April fools day, so I make no apologies for the delay in getting this out.
The difference between accommodation and modification under the ADA and FHA
Any discussion of S.W. Fair Hous. Council v. WG Chandler Villas SH LLC, 2021 WL 1087200 (D. Ariz. Mar. 22, 2021) must begin with a vocabulary note. The thing called “modification” under the ADA is called “accommodation” under the FHA and the thing called “modification” under the FHA doesn’t really exist under Title III of the ADA. The vocabulary matters because under the FHA a “modification” is a change to a physical feature that the tenant must pay for while an “accommodation” is a change in policy that the landlord must pay for on the theory that the costs will usually be nominal. In WG Chandler Villas the plaintiff, a fair housing organization that was testing local apartment communities for their responsiveness to the needs of the deaf, asserted that installation of a flashing doorbell was an accommodation rather than a modification, thus making the cost the landlord’s responsibility. The Court held that how to characterize such a request depended on what kinds of services the landlord already provided:
The Court finds that a flashing doorbell is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA—not merely a modification—in the context of Defendant’s housing facility, because one of the services that Defendant provides residents is safety checks.
Those safety checks included ringing the doorbell to see if the resident responded. Since deaf residents would not benefit from that safety check if they didn’t know the doorbell was being rung the addition of the flashing doorbell was better characterized as a change in policy about safety checks rather than a physical modification in the form of a new doorbell. This reasoning could apply to an array of services that any apartment complex might provide. If reserved parking is a service, for example, then a reserved accessible parking space would be an accommodation despite the physical changes (including using up an entire extra parking space) and their cost.² More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Attorney's Fees, ADA FHA General, ADA FHA Litigation General, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Mootness, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: ADA default judgment, ADA defense, FHA Defense, hotel website, Informational injury, mootness, serial litigation, Strojnik, supplemental jurisdiction, tester standing
Madeira was traditionally aged in barrels that crossed the equator twice, the heat and time fortifying and sweetening the wine. Like a cask of Madeira the sun will cross the equatorial plane of the earth in a few days, but you won’t have to wait for the next crossing in the fall for a quick hits blog. Here’s the news.
What if someday never comes?
The classic Creedence Clearwater Revival song asks what will have if someday never comes. The Eighth Circuit had the same question in Smith v. Golden China of Red Wing, Inc., 987 F.3d 1205, 1209 (8th Cir. 2021). Following its earlier decisions involving the same lawyers and plaintiff the Eighth Circuit had little trouble concluding that the plaintiff, who visited the defendant only as a “tester” driven by his attorney and whose return would be as directed by his attorney did not have sufficiently concrete plans to return for there to be a likely future injury that would support standing for injunctive relief. Since the ADA only provides for injunctive relief that was fatal to this claim as it had been to others in the past. The Eighth Circuit has seen dozens, rather than tens of thousands, of ADA lawsuits because the Court takes Article III standing seriously. If the Ninth Circuit ever does the same my blogs will start getting much shorter. More