This is going to be an unusual blog because most of it will be in a footnote of sorts. The legal part of the blog is easy. If your business wants to avoid getting sued under the ADA because of an inaccessible website an accessibility overlay or widget isn’t going to help you. I can say this with some certainty because in the last two weeks alone five lawsuits have been filed against businesses that use an accessibility widget or overlay on their websites.* I also know why this is the case. The law firms who file website accessibility lawsuits and their pet clients start the process of finding a target using automated tools that scan for compliance with the technical requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 or 2.1. I have used those tools on websites using an overlay or widget and they almost always flag errors of some kind. There is a lot a dispute about the effectiveness of these scanning tools, but effective or not getting flagged by one of them is an invitation to a lawsuit. If a widget doesn’t fix the errors plaintiff’s lawyers can find using automated tools it won’t prevent a lawsuit. The conclusion is simple. If avoiding litigation is your goal an overlay or widget won’t do the trick. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, FHA, FHA Advertising, FHA Class Actions, Internet Accessibility, Uncategorized Tags: ADA defense, FHA Defense, Legal Justice Advocates, website accessibility, Yvette Harrell
There’s a new kid on the block in the world of serial accessibility demands.** It’s not a boy band, its “Legal Justice Advocates.” They’ve been sending demand letters to apartment owners, mortgage lenders and real estate agents claiming to represent an outfit called “Victims Awareness, Inc.” which, they claim, is a “national not-for-profit” with disabled members “throughout the nation.” Victims Awareness, Inc., they claim, uses experienced testers (who are not claimed to be disabled) to check on the accessibility of websites. The firm then sends a demand requiring remediation of unspecified defects and money for the lawyers. After seeing a few of these and getting calls from lawyers who saw more I thought it would be worthwhile to take a longer look at the firm and its supposed client. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Class Actions, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Mootness, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: ADA defense, ADA injunctive relief, ADA Mootness, ADA standing, Diaz v Kroger, Diaz v Lobel's, website accessibility
I’m not Maimonides, but I do think we need a Guide for the Perplexed concerning ADA website litigation because it seems that in many cases both courts and litigants have mistakenly treated websites as if they were buildings. Websites are not buildings, and recognition of that fact would do a great deal to eliminate or slow down abusive website lawsuits. If you are a defendant in such a suit or think you might be, this blog is for you and your lawyers. There is no silver bullet, but there are approaches to defense with real promise. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Class Actions, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Point of Sale, ADA regulations, ADA rulemaking, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: ADA defense, Arbitration, Browsewrap, Clickwrap, Container Store, FHA Defense, Point of Sale, website accessibility
In the last two years the federal courts have had a number of opportunities to find that Title III claims under the ADA are not arbitrable and have declined the invitation. That doesn’t mean these cases are in fact going to arbitration. In every case I found the arbitration agreement was found to be unenforceable on state law grounds, leaving open the possibility of a public policy argument. Nonetheless, I think that a properly written and implemented arbitration clause can force a Title III case into arbitration and give defendants a chance to avoid much of the unnecessary cost of litigation. Here’s why.
The starting point in a discussion of arbitration for civil rights statutes has to be Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 111 S.Ct. 1647 (1991). In Gilmer the Supreme Court found that claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act could be made subject to a valid arbitration agreement, rejecting claims that it was somehow inconsistent with public policy. A few months later Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991, in which, among other things, it affirmed that More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA - Standing, ADA Attorney's Fees, ADA FHA General, ADA FHA Litigation General, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Mootness, ADA Policies, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Hospitals, Internet Accessibility, Statute of Limitations Tags: ADA defense, ADA Policies, ADA standing, FHA Defense, HOA litigation, Johnson v Starbucks, Midwest Disability Initiative, Pacific Trial Group, Scott Ferrell, Strojnik, unruh act, website accessibility
The official worst heat-wave ever is now over in both the U.S. and France, but Sirius is still rising just before dawn and nothing has cooled off in the courts. Here are the latest cases on ADA and FHA issues.
HOAs and the FHA
Lau et al v. Honolulu Park Place, AOAO, 2019 WL 3208644 (D. Haw. July 16, 2019) is a kind of short treatise on how the FHA applies to accommodation claims made by parents or others associated with a disabled person. What is surprising is the degree of ignorance or obtuseness shown by the HOA’s counsel in defending the case. Here’s what the Court says:
“Defendants appear to misunderstand the FHA as well as the injury-in-fact requirements of Article III. . . . Only the most obtuse reading of the Complaint could fail to construe the allegations as an injury to the person. . . . But Defendants’ conclusion is only possible when accepting their misrepresented version of what Plaintiffs seek. In other words, it is a straw man of their own creation.
HOAs should remember that the firm handling their assessment collections or dealing with personal injury suits may not have the specialized knowledge necessary for FHA defense. More