Happy Valentine’s Day. The last few weeks have brought the usual assortment of cases, some of more interest than others. I’ll lead with a personal jurisdiction case that has the potential to be important for website accessibility lawsuits.
ADA Website Accessibility
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Attorney's Fees, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Mootness, ADA regulations, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: ADA defense, ADA reasonable accommodation, ADA standing, FHA Defense, Strojnik
Halloween is a month away, but the candy is on the shelves at our local grocery stores and the courts are already delivering tricks and treats for those of us concerned with accessibility lawsuits.
The complexities of accessibility in federal programs.
Ramos v. Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity, 2019 WL 4316575 (D.N.J. Sept. 12, 2019) contains more law than can be easily summarized, covering:
- HUD and federal sovereign immunity under the ADA, FHA and Rehabilitation Act
- Standing for complaints of administrative action where federal sovereign immunity is waived.
- State sovereign immunity under the ADA and FHA
- The elements of a failure to accommodate claim
- And of intentional discrimination claims.
The most interesting thing to me about the case is the facts that gave rise to it, for the complaints that will ultimately go forward seem to reflect the state agency’s stubborn refusal to be helpful to a disabled couple. If the allegations are true the state would not provide forms and letters with a font big enough for the vision disabled plaintiffs to read them and refused to meet either at their residence or by video conference to accommodate their inability to travel. This, by the way, was after the parties had reached a conciliation agreement that supposedly resolved the matter. Agencies, landlords and others who want to stay out of court should think of the accommodation process as a shared effort to solve a problem, not an adversary proceeding to be won or lost.
Bone v. U. of N. Carolina Health Care System, 2019 WL 4393531 (M.D.N.C. Sept. 13, 2019), like Ramos, has a complicated set of facts and an equally complicated series of rulings on issues that include associational standing and liability for the acts of contractors. It also shares the appearance that nobody associated with the defendants was really paying attention, which is always a problem in a bureaucracy. It’s quite possible the low level employee charged with delivering braille invoices to the plaintiffs thought a few months was reasonable turn around time given the seemingly eternal delays associated with hospital billing and reimbursement, but from the plaintiff’s standpoint getting collection notices for invoices he couldn’t read was disturbing. One question, however, is never raised or answered. There are a large number of handheld text reading devices available for the blind, and it would seem such devices could be a reasonable substitute for braille. At what point does the refusal of a disabled person to take advantage of new technologies make his or her request for accommodation unreasonable? More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Website Accessibility, Internet, Internet Accessibility Tags: Accessibility tools, ADA defense, ADA experts, ADA Website Litigation, Diaz v General Nutrition, Diaz v Lobel's
Two weeks ago I wrote about Diaz v. Lobels,* a case I think exemplifies some of the confusion concerning just what an accessible website should be. Today I want to take a harder look at the Court’s exclusion of testimony from the plaintiff’s expert to ask the question: Just what should an ADA expert testify about? The issue has come up in only three reported cases, each of which has its own take on the matter.
The exclusion of the plaintiff’s expert testimony in Diaz v. Lobels was based on two failings. The Court found the expert, Michael McCaffrey, failed to sufficiently describe his methodology and process, and failed to establish the methods were widely accepted or standard in the field. The Court did not reject the assumption underlying the report because the plaintiff and defendant stipulated that compliance with WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 would make the website accessible for ADA purposes and that non-compliance would make it inaccessible. Instead the Court focused on the “high level” description of the methods used by the team of individuals working for the expert, which the Court found insufficient when combined with a lack of testimony concerning the standards used. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Attorney's Fees, ADA FHA General, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Movies, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility, FHA, FHA design/build litigation, Internet, Internet Accessibility Tags: ADA defense, ADA Internet, ADA Mootness, ADA website, Brintley v Aeroquip, Closed Captioning, CUNA, FHA Defense, Olmstead, Readily Achievable, Rehabilitation Act
I’ve been posting a lot of blogs in the last few days in an effort to catch up with a backlog of important or at least interesting cases. Just as I was wrapping up this Quick Hits blog the Sixth Circuit handed down its decision in Brintley v. Aeroquip Credit Union, precipitating the blog’s publication. Subscribers who feel they are being spammed can rest assured the pace of posts will slacken – assuming the pace of ADA and FHA accessibility developments slackens, of course. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - Hotels, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: ADA defense, ADA drive-by, ADA serial litigation, ADA standing, ADA website, Maximilian Travis, Vaughn & Associates
Today’s blog concerns a couple of cases reported to me by colleagues in California and New York. They give a snapshot of how courts at both ends of the country are thinking about ADA lawsuits. The snapshot at left is pretty much in the middle, near Telluride Colorado.
Welcome to the Hotel California
I was alerted to the California case, Whitaker v. ARS REI USA Corp., by Vaughn & Associates, who represent the defendant. The case illustrates the odd yin and yang of litigation in California, where the shifting tides of state law have altered the litigation landscape in recent years. To understand why requires a little background. California’s Unruh Act parallels the ADA but provides for statutory damages of $4,000 per violation. The ADA does not provide for damages, so an Unruh Act claim is better for the plaintiff. That damage remedy has driven ADA litigation at volumes that make California a clear leader in the number of ADA lawsuits filed if state and federal court cases are counted. More