This blog and the next were prompted by two recent efforts by state officials to deal with the problem of emotional support animals. One was a decision from the Iowa Supreme Court that puts a state law overlay on how to deal with conflicts between disabled and non-disabled tenants. You can find the details in William Goren’s blog.¹ The other was a recent legislative effort in Florida, the passage of Senate Bill 1084, which adds specific anti-discrimination provisions for emotional support animals.² These are far from the first efforts at the state level to do something about animals and disabilities,³ but they illustrate the problems these laws create for landlords trying to deal with fake emotional support animal requests.(4) 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 - serial litigation, ADA FHA Legislation, ADA Policies Tags: ADA defense, ADA Education and Reform Act, ADA Legislation, Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act, Joe Biden
Readers of my blog will recall that Republican efforts in the last few years to reform the ADA not only failed to pass, but also failed to address the real problems in enforcement of Title III.¹ An effort by Democrats is now part of the “Biden Plan for Full Participation and Equality for People with Disabilities.” The “Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act,” was introduced in 2019 bill by a group of Democratic Senators. The proposed legislation will make some very modest improvements in the ADA, but like its Republican counterpart mostly serves to point out deficiencies in the ADA that require far more aggressive action on behalf of small businesses and those with disabilities who continue to suffer from a lack of access to those businesses. More