Posts Tagged ‘ADA filing mills’

ADA and disabled rights roundup

Wave of ADA suits over retailer gift cards lacking Braille version

Over a period of eight days last fall, four law firms and associated clients who had earlier filed hundreds of web accessibility suits in New York launched a new wave of more than 100 putative class actions charging that retailers are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by offering gift cards but failing to provide Braille versions. [Minh N. Vu and John W. Egan, Seyfarth Shaw]

Typically, according to the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), “a successful plaintiff in [a local web accessibility] settlement will receive only $500 per case, but attorney’s fees average many times that amount, approximately $16,000 per case or more, depending on the law firm, the court and other factors, thereby giving plaintiff’s lawyers ample incentive to file as many cases as possible.” One attorney has made about a million dollars a year this way over eight years. “The targets selected by plaintiffs in this new wave run the full gamut of retail establishments, including big box retailers, grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants, clothing brands, and online gaming and other services.” [Ryan P. Phair, M. Brett Burns & Torsten M. Kracht, Hunton Andrews Kurth]

Feds: lawyer made $1 million from bogus ADA claims in New York and Florida

Feds arrested Florida attorney Stuart Finkelstein on charges of mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, false declarations to a court, and obstruction of justice following a scheme in which they say he filed more than 300 lawsuits on behalf of two purported clients who had attempted to visit public establishments but were frustrated by lack of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. In reality, prosecutors say, the two individuals “neither retained nor authorized Finkelstein to file ADA lawsuits on their behalf” and “never attempted to visit” the public establishments. The lawyer allegedly “made numerous false representations” both to the businesses and to the courts, “obstructed official judicial proceedings, and then settled these fake lawsuits in order to collect approximately $930,000 in attorney’s fees.” The suits were filed in New York and Florida. [U.S. Department of Justice press release; Jay Weaver, Miami Herald]

Section 8 Landlording Should Be Voluntary

It’s the strings: landlords should have a right to decide for themselves whether to shoulder the Section 8 program’s only-too-real regulatory burdens, I argue in my new Cato piece, reacting to a Baltimore Sun opinion piece. Baltimore County is the scene of a long-running controversy over whether to force landlords to participate in the federal housing voucher program. Earlier here.

Sidelight: A new San Diego ordinance that took effect August 1 “orders violators to pay three times the advertised monthly rent to eligible plaintiffs who saw the ad, plus punitive damages, as well as a plaintiff’s attorney fees and costs if a judge so orders. Even after the offending ad is taken down or changed, exposure to liability from anyone who saw the illegal ad lasts for a year.” Soon thereafter enterprising attorney Christian Curry filed more than 50 lawsuits under the ordinance and has obtained many settlements, although critics suspect his clients weren’t always intent on living in properties with challenged ads; they also say some ads were targeted that were written before the law changed and not intentionally left online afterward. A spokeswoman for a property group “likened the new Section 8 cases to ‘drive-by’ lawsuits over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” [Ashly McGlone and Jack Molmud, Voice of San Diego]

ADA and disabled rights roundup

ADA mass filers hit Atlanta immigrant-owned businesses

Craig Ehrlich’s law firm “has filed more than 550 ADA lawsuits in the North Georgia Judicial Circuit, 86% of which have been filed in the past two years. Most of those cases list one of a half dozen of Ehrlich’s testers as plaintiffs, some of whom are party to more than 100 lawsuits since 2017.” Overall, the number of ADA lawsuits filed in Georgia’s federal courts since 2015 is up 370% over the number filed over the preceding five years. Now a lawsuit filed on behalf of businesses he has targeted, many owned by immigrants, claims that Ehrlich has abused the system and is after settlements more than reform. “It’s only abusive if you think the ADA is not important,” retorts a lawyer for Ehrlich. Georgia State University Provost Wendy Hensel, “a law professor and ADA expert,” also defends the mass filings. [Chris Joyner, Atlanta Journal-Constitution; more on ADA filing mills]

ADA: two gleams on a dark horizon

Ohio has passed a bill giving targets of ADA accessibility complaints a chance to fix the issue before becoming liable for attorneys’ fees, and a California state judge has ruled that the state’s jackpot Unruh Act does not cover website accessibility claims. Those are two bits of favorable news amid a lot of continued bad news, I argue in a new Cato post.

Related: Domino’s argues before a Ninth Circuit panel in a web accessibility case [Kristina Launey, Seyfarth Shaw]:

Domino’s argued, as a possible explanation for DOJ’s inaction: “there is no such thing as an accessible website, and there never will be.” He cited the plaintiff’s expert’s statement in Winn-Dixie, also cited by the Eleventh Circuit judges in that oral argument, that the expert had never seen a website that complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). To illustrate the difficulty businesses face in applying the guidelines, Domino’s posited how detailed the alt-text behind a picture of a basketball needs to be to conform to the guidelines – if it has LeBron James’s autograph on it, for example, does the alt-text need to go to that level of detail, or can it just say “basketball.” He thinks the regulatory effort was stymied because the DOJ couldn’t “wrap its head around” this.

More: Mark Pulliam at City Journal on a serial plaintiff’s suit against the entertainer’s website Beyonce.com.

The oft-recurring phrase

“…render the website unintelligible and prevent navigation and use.” So many similar ADA claims with the same lawyer involved [Court Listener via Tim Cushing]

In related news, a blind woman who sued Brooklyn Brewery over its allegedly inaccessible website has sued at least 24 other defendants as well. [Colin Mixson, Brooklyn Paper; our coverage of web accessibility and of ADA filing mills]

August 15 roundup