In some ways the 9th Circuit’s recent decision in Kalani v. Starbucks Coffee Co., 2017 WL 2813864, at *1 (9th Cir. June 28, 2017) is one of the saddest in the long history of ADA litigation. Robert Kalani was a mild kind of serial plaintiff who filed 15 cases in the Northern District of California over a period of several years. The most seriously litigated was his lawsuit against Starbucks, which claimed in part that point of sale displays encroached on the clear counter space required by the ADA. Now it is almost over, revealing both the minimal impact that individual lawsuits have on accessibility and the incredible waste of money involved in defending such cases. More
ADA Attorney’s Fees
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA Attorney's Fees, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA regulations, ADA rulemaking, Movies Tags: Closed Captioning, Department of Justice, movie theaters, regulations
Hard on the heels of the news about a newly filed lawsuit demanding closed captioning and audio descriptions* the Department of Justice has announced its rules concerning accessibility for movie theaters**, which will become effective sometime in the next few months. This is clearly good news for movie theaters who want certainty about their legal obligations, but will it put an end to the pending lawsuit, or prevent future claims? The disturbing answer is likely “no.” More
On July 7 H.R. 3765, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2015, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. H.R. 3765 is one of several pending ADA reform bills targeting “drive-by” or serial litigants. They share a common approach, requiring that plaintiffs give notice before filing suit so the problem can be fixed. They also share a common reaction from the disabilities and business communities. Disability advocates vehement oppose the bills while business groups support them.
We’ve blogged about H.R. 3765 before (click HERE and HERE to read the earlier blogs). Our prediction that the bill would go nowhere is proving wrong, but our criticism of the bill’s likely effectiveness hasn’t changed. Serial litigation is driven by cheap standing and the economics of defending a lawsuit in federal court, neither of which will be changed by this bill. There is something in the bill that all sides should agree on – a requirement for more ADA education. Unfortunately, this requirement comes without any funding, so it is unlikely to be effectively implemented. The best way to reduce litigation and help the disabled involves seriously funded education for business and coordination of ADA compliance requirements with the building inspection process at the local level. This would improve ADA compliance before a suit was filed or demand letter sent, and that would have the effect of moving resources from attorneys fees to accessibility. Private enforcement of the ADA through litigation is the most wasteful way to achieve the goals of the ADA, and as long as litigation is the main tool for enforcement the lion’s share of money will go to lawyers instead of improvements in accessibility.
Marianne Wilson of Chain Store Age Media reported that a new effort at ADA litigation reform, the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2015”, H.R. 3765, was introduced on October 20, 2015, by Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX), Doug Collins (R-GA) and David Jolly (R-FL). Like previous attempts to amend the private remedy provisions in the ADA this one requires notice and opportunity to cure as a prerequisite to a private lawsuit. I won’t speculate on the odds that it will pass in the current legislative climate, but it does provide a reason to look at real problems with private ADA enforcement, none of which are addressed by this legislation. Instead of treating plaintiffs as the problem, Congress should look at defects in the ADA and the way the courts interpret it. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA Attorney's Fees, ADA FHA Litigation General Tags: ada litigation, ADA pleading, ADA standing, private lawsuits, private litigants, restaurants, retail, serial plaintiffs
This post was inspired by an article forwarded from fellow ADA blogger William Goren, whose blog contains excellent analysis of current cases. The article describes a Florida hotel’s fight against a local serial ADA complainant who, it appears, may be afraid to go to trial on the lawsuit he filed. It isn’t clear how the case will end, but the defendant has William Norkunas on its side. Norkunas is himself a frequent ADA plaintiff and has served as an expert witness in more than a thousand cases. He is clearly an advocate for ADA enforcement, but is quoted as saying that the plaintiff in this particular case is operating a “continuing criminal enterprise that boils down to extortion.” More