Posts Tagged ‘ADA filing mills’

“‘Somebody’s got to stop this’: New wave of ADA lawsuits hit Colorado, Southwest U.S. hard”

ADA filing mills have hit Colorado, with mom-and-pop businesses the prime targets, according to an investigation by The Denver Channel:

Now, people who call themselves disability advocates have filed a new wave of lawsuits across the Denver metro demanding settlements and claiming businesses are inaccessible to people with disabilities. …One case in Bailey, Colorado forced a man to shut down his restaurant indefinitely.

In this latest round of litigation, a woman from Arvada has filed nearly 70 cases in less than two months. There’s evidence to show the complaints are connected to a lawsuit-filing machine across the Southwest United States….

After Denver7 approached [plaintiff Melissa] Umphenour, her attorney asked the court to seal some of her new cases. The attorney did not want them to be subject to public inspection….

H.R. 620, a bill introduced in Congress with cosponsors from both political parties, would provide that persons seeking to file accessibility lawsuits of this sort “would have to write a demand letter to a business first. They could file a lawsuit only if the business fails to respond in writing within 60 days. If the business responds, it would have 120 days to fix to compliance issues or, at the very least, show substantial progress.”

February 2 roundup

  • “Louisiana Police Chief: Resisting Arrest is Now a Hate Crime Under State Law” [C.J. Ciamarella, earlier on so-called Blue Lives Matter laws here, here, etc.]
  • Agency interpretive letters are the wrong way to enact new federal law [Ilya Shapiro and David McDonald on Cato amicus in school bathroom case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.]
  • “Thousands of business threatened by ADA lawsuits” [Justin Boggs, Scripps/NBC26]
  • “Reforming The Administrative State — And Reining It In” Hoover Institution panel with Adam White, Oren Cass, and Kevin Kosar, moderated by Yuval Levin [video, related Adam White paper, “Reforming Administrative Law to Reflect Administrative Reality”].
  • New Hampshire: “Wal-Mart told to pay pharmacist $16 million for gender bias” [Reuters]
  • Congress seldom has acted as if it believed strongly in D.C. home rule and it’s unlikely to start now [Ryan McDermott, Washington Times, thanks for quotes]

January 4 roundup

Disabled rights roundup

  • Wall Street Journal covers surge in web accessibility suits [Sara Randazzo, WSJ] State and local governments comment on federal proposals for public sector web accessibility;
  • “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III lawsuits are up 63 percent over 2015, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw.” [Insurance Journal]
  • “Drive-by” ADA suits in Austin, Tex.: “Lawyer sanctioned $175,000 for phony email, offensive comments” [Ryan Autullo, Austin American-Statesman] Arizona mass-filing attorney responds to professional conduct complaint [East Valley Tribune, earlier]
  • “Airlines seek to limit types of therapy animals allowed on planes” [L.A. Times]
  • “Fired for being (twice) intoxicated on the job, a mechanic for the D.C.-area transit authority undergoes treatment, applies for his job back. But his bosses refuse, allegedly because of his alcoholism. An ADA violation? Indeed, says the D.C. Circuit.” [Alexander v. WMATA as summarized on John Ross, Short Circuits]
  • Department of Justice unveils ADA regulation requiring movie theaters to offer captioning and audio description [Federal Register]

60 Minutes on ADA Drive-By Lawsuits

On Sunday Anderson Cooper at CBS “60 Minutes” covered one of our favorite issues: the way lawyers and clients sue retail businesses by the dozens or hundreds over defects in ADA accessibility compliance and then cash in the complaints for quick settlements. Actually entering the business is not always necessary: it can be enough to drive around the parking lot spotting technical violations.

South Florida store owner Mike Zayed says “no disabled customer had ever complained about the ramp, the sign, or the parking space,” which failed to comply with ADA specs. Zayed “doesn’t think the person who sued him was a real customer because the man claimed he encountered barriers inside the store that didn’t exist.” And now we’re beginning to see “Google lawsuits” in which the complainant consults online aerial maps to discover, for example, which motel owners haven’t yet installed the pool lifts that federal law recently made obligatory. The same attorney using the same client sued more than 60 defendants in 60 days over lack of pool lifts. “At last count, that attorney has sued nearly 600 businesses in just the last two years, many for not having pool lifts.” [Dec. 4 segment and script; full show here (segment begins 32:47).

Disabled rights roundup

  • As filing mills, web accessibility concepts go nationwide and appeals court green-lights use of “testers”: “Disability Lawsuits Against Small Businesses Soar” [Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal]
  • More on legal imperilment of universities’ free online course offerings [George Leef and thanks for quote, earlier here, here]
  • Bill filed by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) would provide for “notice and cure” of some ADA violations [East Valley Tribune]
  • Supreme Court’s CRST decision might open door for defendants to recover legal fees in more ADA cases that did not result in merits ruling [William Goren, earlier on CRST]
  • Prenda Law founder loses law license, won’t be filing access suits for a while [Mike Masnick, earlier]
  • Jury backs Austin, Tex. police officer with narcolepsy [Austin American-Statesman, h/t Mark Pulliam]

ADA lawsuits up 63 percent

“Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III lawsuits are up 63 percent over 2015, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw. ADA Title III prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of disability. The act applies to a variety of businesses and restaurants, including warehouses, movie theaters, schools, office buildings, day care facilities, doctors’ offices and any new construction of same must comply with the ADA construction standards.”…’More lawyers are finding out that this is a very…lucrative practice,’ said [Seyfarth partner Minh] Vu. The number of suits filed in federal court may top more than 7,000; more lawsuits were filed in the first half of this year than in all of 2013, according to the law firm’s research.” [Insurance Journal]

Related: “Sunshine state attorney seeks website changes, and costs and fees, from snow shoe seller” [John Breslin/Florida Record, and thanks for quote]

Arizona AG, citing “systemic abuse”, asks for dismissal of batch ADA cases

The “Arizona attorney general’s office on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss more than 1,000 cases focused on business parking lots, brought by a Phoenix lawyer … The lawyer, Peter Strojnik, has filed more than 2,000 disability access cases in less than a year on behalf of Advocates for American Disabled Individuals. The plaintiff reportedly had a standard settlement offer of $7,500” and settled most of its cases for an average of $3,900 a pop, less than the cost of legal defense. The executive director of an organization that “is the federally designated disability protection and advocacy group for Arizona” criticized the AG’s action. [ABA Journal] Meanwhile, the executive director of a disabilities nonprofit represented by attorney Strojnik has resigned. The attorney “is currently under active investigation with the Arizona State Bar Association. Strojnik has been disciplined by the Arizona State Bar Association three times, according to ABC 15 KNXV-TV.” [Phoenix Business Journal, earlier]

The Economist on ADA litigation

“The hundreds of pages of technical requirements [relating to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA] have become so ‘frankly overwhelming’ that a good 95% of Arizona businesses haven’t fully complied, says Peter Strojnik, a lawyer in Phoenix. He has sued more than 500 since starting in February, and says he will hit thousands more in the state and hire staff to begin out-of-state suits. … Violators must pay all legal fees” and courts ordinarily find violations. [The Economist]

Overlawyered has been covering the phenomenon of ADA filing mills since the start of this website and the issue of web accessibility for very nearly as long. Here’s some of The Economist’s reporting on the latter topic:

“[Texas attorney Omar Weaver] Rosales says extending ADA rules to websites will allow him to begin suing companies that use color combinations problematic for the color-blind and layouts that are confusing for people with a limited field of vision.

The DOJ is supporting a National Association of the Deaf lawsuit against Harvard for not subtitling or transcribing videos and audio files posted online. As such cases multiply, content may be taken offline. Paying an accessibility consultant to spot the bits of website coding and metadata that might trip up a blind user’s screen-reading software can cost $50,000 for a website with 100 pages.”

“Law firm targets real estate companies for ADA suits over inaccessible websites”

Yes, mass production of web accessibility suits is under way: “A partner of [Pittsburgh-based] Carlson Lynch Sweet Kilpela & Carpenter, which represents plaintiffs in such cases, tells the [Chicago] Tribune that it sent out about 25 demand letters to real estate companies in recent months.” [ABA Journal; Kenneth Harney; our 15+ years of coverage of the slow-motion legal disaster that is web accessibility]