Most of the 37 ATM lawsuits filed in Texas since June of 2012 have been dismissed or settled, but two have just moved past the motion to dismiss phase and may become significant as models for later class actions concerning ATMs and other facilities. The decisions denying the defendants’ motions to dismiss point to some of the problems with this kind of case and suggest strategies for dealing effectively with them. More
Last week I described how liability for design/build claims under the FHA can last forever. The same problem exists with design/build claims under the ADA, as shown by the decision in Frame v. City of Arlington. There are even surprises with the statute of limitations for barrier removal cases. For example, after a plaintiff encounters an access barrier he can wait as long as he wants before filing suit. In Pickern v. Holiday Quality Foods the Ninth Circuit said that as long as the plaintiff is aware of the discriminatory condition and is deterred from returning to the building the violation of the ADA continues. In Pickern the plaintiff had driven to the store within the limitations period, and although he remained in his car there was some evidence of real deterrence. Nonetheless, the rule stated in Pickern would allow a plaintiff to stew at home for as many years or decades as she chose before filing suit. More
You don’t have to own or lease a facility in order to have possible ADA liability when you are using it. The Supreme Court’s decision in PGA Tour v. Martin got quite a bit of attention because it seemed to pit the ADA against the rules of the PGA for golf tournaments. The case also created a much broader and more important rule. An event, even one that lasts only a few hours or days, can be a public accommodation whose organizers become responsible for ADA violations in facilities they only rent on a short term basis. In my last blog I described the possibility that the owner of a residential facility might become temporarily subject to more stringent ADA requirements. This is the inverse: the user of a facility who becomes responsible for ADA compliance when using a building whose owner may be subject to different standards. More
In her song “Raised on Robbery” Jonie Mitchell describes a man “sitting in the bar of the Empire Hotel, drinking for diversion and thinking for himself” while he watches a hockey game that he’s bet on. I thought about that song when I ate lunch with a wheel chair bound at a local restaurant. We had no trouble being seated; there were plenty of accessible tables. What we couldn’t do was see the three large flat screen TVs behind the bar because the bar area only had raised tables and raised booths.
Does the inability to sit in the bar or see a TV amount to discrimination against those with disabilities? It depends on how you look at the business of the restaurant. If the restaurant is only selling food and drink then a person with a mobility disability gets the same thing everyone else does – food and drink. But if the restaurant is the experience of drinking and watching a hockey game the disabled person is out of luck. More
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