valentine-heart-md_edited-1Just in time for Valentine’s day the Fifth Circuit has definitively confirmed what should never have been an issue in the first place; that is, an ADA plaintiff does not have standing without suffering a real injury. The first decision, Deutsch v. Travis County Shoe Hosp., Inc., 16-51431, 2018 WL 704131 (5th Cir. Feb. 2, 2018) was not designated for publication, but discusses standing at length. Deutsch v. Annis Enterprises, Inc., 17-50231, 2018 WL 776073 (5th Cir. Feb. 8, 2018) will be officially published. It contains a similar discussion of standing.

Both cases are interesting because the Fifth Circuit, referring back to language from its decision in  Frame v. City of Arlington, 657 F.3d 215 (5th Cir. 2011) (en banc), discusses whether the alleged ADA violations would “negatively affect” Deutsch’s “day-to-day life.” In Annis Enterprises the Court explains part of its earlier decision in Frame as follows:

Thus, the plaintiffs had established standing because they had “alleged in detail how specific inaccessible sidewalks negatively affect their day-to-day lives by forcing them to take longer and more dangerous routes to their destinations.”

2018 WL 776073, at *3, quoting Frame. Applying this standard to Deutsch, it then wrote: “unlike the Frame plaintiffs, Deutsch has not shown how the supposed ADA violations at Color at Dawn will “negatively affect [his] day-to-day li[fe].” Id.

The Travis County Shoe Hospital case quotes the same language from Frame, then applies it to Deutsch with these words:

In contrast, Deutsch has not provided a description of any concrete plans to return to Travis County Shoe, and he also has not shown how the alleged ADA violations negatively affect his day-to-day life. Deutsch testified at the hearing that he had not been to Travis County Shoe before the day he alleges he encountered the ADA violations. Deutsch further testified that he had not returned to the business since that day. He “perhaps” had an intention of returning to the business but had no specific intention of doing so.

Based on evidence in the record, Deutsch has visited Travis County Shoe one time. Not only has he not returned to the business, he has not expressed an intent to do so even if any alleged barrier to his access is removed. In addition, unlike the plaintiffs in Frame, Deutsch has not shown how the alleged violations negatively affect his day-to-day activities. See id.

I’ve quoted Travis County Shoe at length because it appears the Fifth Circuit is requiring two different things for ADA standing. One is an intent to return. The other is a showing that the alleged ADA violations would negatively affect the plaintiff’s day-to-day activities. This makes perfect sense, for an ADA violation can scarcely injure a person who was simply out looking for violations; however, there is a large body of case law, mostly in the Ninth Circuit, holding that a disabled person suffers an injury by merely seeing an ADA violation. See, e.g., Chapman v. Pier 1 Imports (U.S.) Inc., 631 F.3d 939, 944 (9th Cir. 2011). This kind of cheap standing* is what drives the ADA litigation machine, which depends on plaintiffs like Deutsch who simply drive around looking for ADA violations and then file suit in the hope of a quick settlement. This kind of plaintiff will never be able to honestly allege a negative affect on day-to-day activities from a violation seen only once while looking for violations.

The Fifth Circuit seems to have done what other courts should have done long ago; require that ADA plaintiffs prove a concrete injury to establish standing. That single requirement would stem the tide of ADA litigation and end the driving for dollars industry that has grown up based on cheap standing and quick settlements.

*See our earlier blog ““Cheap standing” under the ADA: district courts push back.