The ADA and FHA decisions handed down in the last few weeks share a common theme: technicalities matter. Sometimes the lack of technical standards increases the time and money spent in litigation, as in the first entry below, but more often technical matters of procedure and expert testimony determine the outcome of a case. The ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus famously said “wrong must not win by technicalities,” but it is easier to sort out right and wrong when you get to write the play and decide who says and does what. When people don’t agree they go to court, and a commitment to the rule of law is a commitment to deciding disputes based on technicalities instead of fluctuating political and individual notions of what is right and wrong. More
By Richard Hunt in ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, Rehabilitation Act, Section 508 Web Access Tags: ADA defense, ADA website accessibility, ADA Website Litigation, Online Accessibility Act, Representative Lou Correa, Representative Ted Budd
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.
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - Standing, Public Facilities, Rehabilitation Act, Title II Tags: ADA defense, ADA statute of limitations, ADA Title II, Babcock v Michigan, Frame v Arlington, Hamer v Trinidad
I’ve observed before that titles II and III of the ADA create what can be called a crime looking for a victim.* The decision in Hamer v. City of Trinidad, 2019 WL 2120132 (10th Cir. May 15, 2019) shows how defining the crime can change the burden cities may face today based on decisions that go back decades or even centuries. The decision in Hamer will allow almost any person with a disability to demand that every inaccessible facility of a town like Trinidad be fixed regardless of its historical origin and regardless of how long the plaintiff has known of the problem. This decision contradicts decisions from other Circuits and follows a dubious analytical path. (For those who want a different view on this case, William Goren’s blog Repeated Violations Doctrine makes the case for this decision being correct). More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, FHA, FHA Emotional Support Animals, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Internet, Internet Accessibility, Reasonable accommodation, Rehabilitation Act Tags: ADA defense, ADA drive-by litigation, ADA Mootness, ADA website accessibility, FHA Defense, World Cup
Those of you who are not binge watching the World Cup matches will be interested in what has been going on in the world of disability rights during the last few weeks. Here is our roundup of recent ADA and FHA decisions, some of which are notable.
Indemnity and contribution for Fair Housing Act claims.
Shaw v. Cherokee Meadows, L.P. 2018 WL 2967708 (N.D.Okla. June 12, 2018) is another in a series of cases concerning indemnity for design/build defects under the FHA that gets it completely wrong and winds up with an absurd result. The decision has little in the way of discussion because it relies on the analysis from an earlier case, Equal Rights Center v. Niles Bolton Associates, 602 F.3d 597 (4th Cir. 2010). We’ve blogged on this issue before* but the arguments are worth repeating. Equal Rights Center based its analysis on earlier cases concerning race and similar kinds of intentional discrimination found that public policy precluded indemnity and contribution for FHA discrimination claims. In cases of intentional discrimination or respondeat superior it makes sense to forbid indemnity because you want to discourage bad intent and encourage proper supervision of employees. It doesn’t make any sense at all in design/build cases under Section 3104(f)(3)(C) because this is a “no fault” provision that can be violated without any intent to discriminate. Moreover, the owner of an apartment complex has no choice but to rely on 3rd party experts – architects and contractors – to properly design and build the apartments. When architects and contractors know that they are immune from liability for their failures they have no incentive to design and build according to FHA standards, and as a practical matter they are always immune because the first target in any lawsuit will be the owner. The Ninth Circuit has rejected Equal Rights Center for good reason, and if Shaw v. Cherokee Meadows is appealed the Tenth Circuit should reject it as well. More
Tooting our own horn as they say, we note that B2B E-Commerce World quoted Richard in a January 17, 2018 article by Paul Demery, “The government’s push to higher web accessibility standards.” For businesses that do business with the federal government the article provides a good overview of the Section 508 “ICT Refresh” that incorporated WCAG 2.0 into the requirements of Section 508. Richard’s observation was simply that litigation under Section 508 is far less common that litigation under Title III of the ADA because the requirements apply primarily to the federal government and some of its technology contractors so disputes are handled directly between the government and those contractors. It should be noted that Title III and Title II lawsuits against entities that receive federal funding frequently include a claim under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which has only a general non-discrimination provision and whose regulations do not explicitly incorporate a web accessibility standard. DOJ takes the position that both Section 504 and Title III of the ADA require web accessibility.