- Housing authority in Meeker, Colorado, population 2,250, will pay nearly $1 million to settle suit over limits on emotional support animals [Niki Turner, Rio Blanco Herald-Times, Kathleen Foody, Associated Press/Colorado Sun, Stina Sieg, Colorado Public Radio]
- Volume of web-accessibility suits continues to climb [Seyfarth Shaw; John Breslin, Florida Record] More on growth of this litigation [podcast with Karen Harned, NFIB, for Federalist Society Regulatory Transparency Project (earlier on pool lifts)] “DOJ Says Failure to Comply With Web Accessibility Guidelines is Not Necessarily a Violation of the ADA” [Minh Vu, Seyfarth Shaw, from last October] Second Circuit dismissal of web-access complaint in Diaz v. Apple, Inc. could be helpful to defendants [Joshua Stein and Shira Blank, National Law Review]
- Report on ADA filing mills in Rochester and vicinity [Berkeley Brean, WHEC: first, second, third (colleges), fourth, fifth]
- And more on New York mass filing operations: Inveterate suer of restaurants reaches Staten Island [Pamela Silvestri, SI Live] Finger Lakes wineries targeted [Jane Flasch/WHAM in February; Michael J. Fitzgerald, Finger Lakes Times] “Finkelstein has gone on a lawsuit-filing spree since getting his law license back in New York state in 2016,” and among his 50 ADA suits are some the named plaintiff says he didn’t know about [Julia Marsh, New York Post]
- In EEOC-land no one can hear you honk [press release on EEOC lawsuit against limo service that declined to hire deaf driver]
- “Washington Supreme Court Says Obesity Is a Disability” [Ben McDonald, and thanks for quote; earlier]
It’s okay for a condo swimming pool to require adult supervision of children, right? Wrong: “familial status” is one of the many bases for protection under housing discrimination law. As a result, “any rule or policy targeting children is likely to trigger a discrimination accusation or a fair housing inquiry.” To defend it against attack, the condo must be prepared to prove that the rule or policy is both based on a “compelling business necessity” and represents the “least restrictive means” to achieve the stated purpose. You’d think safety might be an adequate reason, but in two cases federal courts in California have found otherwise. Some rules might survive if, e.g., they are based on Red Cross guidelines, but putatively improper motives such as reducing noise or crowd control must not enter into any rationale. Also, policies must permit unrelated companions, rather than just parents, to count as the supervision [Matt D. Ober, Washington Post]
- New York City embarks on extensive new regulation of freelance work [Jennifer A. Williams, Ford Harrison]
- “Maryland Decriminalizes Unlicensed Barbering; Jacks Up Fines for Unlicensed Barbering” [Eric Boehm, Reason] “A New Jersey Bill Protects Pool Owners from Low Prices” [Shoshana Weissman, NRO on licensing of pool/spa service contractors and installers]
- “Lawsplainer: How The Seventh Circuit Decided That Sexual Orientation Discrimination Violates Federal Law” [Ken at Popehat, earlier here, here, and here]
- New Jersey taxpayers pay $100 million+ a year to resolve public worker lawsuits [Mark Mueller, NJ.com]
- “How the Fair Labor Standards Act Hurts Women” [Heather Owen/Constangy Brooks, thanks for mention] More on comp time: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, WSJ MarketWatch; Connor Wolf, Inside Sources.
- Browning-Ferris at the NLRB: “Predictable, Uniform Standard Needed for Who Is a Joint Employer” [Michael Lotito and Missy Parry, WLF, earlier here, here, here, here, here, and here]
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).
Reports Angus Loten in the WSJ:
Small-business owners face a growing number of disabled-access lawsuits in the wake of a recent appeals-court ruling giving rise to disabled “testers,” as well as the release of detailed federal specifications for curb ramps, self-opening doors and other standards.
…A November 2013 decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a case against Marod Supermarkets found that someone who isn’t necessarily a patron could be a “tester” of disabled-access compliance. That cleared the way for individual plaintiffs to bring dozens, even hundreds, of lawsuits against multiple businesses, as serial testers….
The litigation upswing also follows the Justice Department’s release of a set of compliance standards for the 24-year-old federal disability law. Those standards, which came into force in March 2012, include detailed specifications for long-standing requirements, such as the allowable slope of a wheelchair ramp and the exact height of towel dispensers in accessible restrooms. They also introduced a new requirement for hotels with pools to provide a “pool lift” for disabled guests, which went into effect last year.
Some business owners say the lawsuits accomplish little more than providing revenue to attorneys. …
We warned about the pool-lift requirement multiple times. The article reports that plaintiffs are filing multiple suits against hotels in Florida for not having the lifts; along with Florida, California and New York account for a high share of all accessibility actions against local businesses and retailers, in part because of favorable state and city laws that increase complainants’ legal and financial leverage.
Australian journalist Jo Abi is perfectly serious about the idea:
Drowning is one of the leading cause of death in children under five with majority of those deaths occurring in backyard pools. So why haven’t backyard pools been banned? If any other product or activity caused so many injuries and deaths in our most vulnerable they would be banned, there would be lawsuits, there would be outrage. Except backyard pools are an intrinsic part of Australian culture, and it’s costing us children’s lives.
One who isn’t persuaded is Lenore Skenazy, who quotes a commenter at the Australian iVillage site:
I understand one always wants to take measures to prevent deaths, but 16 deaths a year is 0.00000064% of the population. …
We really need to be careful with these kind of ideas, it might not be the banning of cars but the amount of rules that can be added in the name of safety is and will continue to spiral out of control. People seem to want a zero fatality society yet this is not only impossible, the quest for it will create a culture and country based on fear and draconian governance. Given the rules in place now, and articles like this asking for more, 100 years from now you won’t be allowed to swim at all or build, play outside, run, experience anything really.
Lenore Skenazy will be speaking at Cato tomorrow (Wednesday)(Update: postponed to March 6 due to weather). To attend, register here.
More from comments, Bill Poser:
There’s a factor missing from this discussion. The dangers of backyard pools have to be balanced against the dangers of not having them. It seems likely that backyard pools contribute to public health in two ways: (a) by increasing the cardiovascular fitness of the people who use them, who might exercise less if they did not have access to backyard pools; (b) by teaching children to swim and keeping up the swimming ability of adults. Here again, one can learn to swim elsewhere, but it is likely that the availability of backyard pools brings about swimming instruction and practice that would otherwise not occur. We can’t formulate an intelligent policy without knowing the marginal increase in deaths from heart attacks and drownings due that would be incurred by banning backyard pools.
- Bad lawsuit on bad theory: “Cantor Fitzgerald, American Airlines Settle 9/11 Lawsuit” [Financial Advisor mag]
- New Jersey court: only golfer, not his companions, responsible for yelling “Fore” to warn of errant ball [TortsProf]
- “The New Lawsuit Ecosystem: Trends, Targets and Players,” 158-page report for Chamber of Commerce, topics include emerging areas of litigation (food class actions, data privacy); also lists leading plaintiff’s lawyers in various areas [Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform]
- “Eleventh Circuit Stacks Deck Against Defendants in Never-Ending Engle Product Liability Litigation” [Cory Andrews, WLF]
- Beck vs. Prof. Chemerinsky on prescription drugs and pre-emption [Drug and Device Law]
- “Outrageous Court Decisions: O’Brien v. Muskin Corp.” [Schearer; above-ground pool dive defect claim, New Jersey 1983]
- New York rejects medical monitoring cause of action [Behrens]
- State attorneys general and contingent-fee lawyers: West Virginia high court says OK [WV Record] Similar Nevada challenge [Daniel Fisher]
- Driver of bus that fatally crushed pedestrian fails to convince court on can’t-bear-to-look-at-evidence theory [David Applegate, Heartland Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly]
- UK uncovers biggest car crash scam ring, detectives say County Durham motorists were paying up to £100 extra on insurance [BBC, Guardian, Telegraph]
- “A Litigator Reviews John Grisham’s The Litigators” [Max Kennerly]
- Quin Hillyer, who’s written extensively on litigation abuse, is putting journalism on hold and running for Congress from Mobile, Ala. [American Spectator]
- Not clear how man and 5-year-old son drowned in pool — he’d been hired for landscaping — but homeowner being sued [Florence, Ala.; WAFF]
- “U.S. Legal System Ranked as Most Costly” [Shannon Green, Corp Counsel] “International comparisons of litigation costs: Europe, U.S. and Canada” [US Chamber]
- For most private-sector employers it’s illegal to let workers take comp time off in lieu of overtime; H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, would fix that [Hyman]
- Christine Quinn take note: laws requiring paid sick leave do not constitute social progress [Richard Epstein]
- Occupational hazards of bagpipe playing (other than being chased out of your neighborhood) [Donald McNeil Jr., New York Times]
- “Phoenix ‘Not Looking for Strong Swimmers’ for Lifeguard Jobs” [David Bernstein; earlier on discrimination against deaf lifeguards]
- Decline of full-time work in retail sector in response to ObamaCare: year’s biggest employment story? [Warren Meyer, FoxNews (largest movie theater chain cuts hours for thousands of employees)]
- City of Philadelphia not doing well on workers’ comp program, to say the least [Workers’ Compensation Institute]
- “New labor rule will violate attorney-client privilege” [Diana Furchtgott-Roth, D.C. Examiner]
- “Calling a Co-Worker ‘Stupid’ Not Enough to Prove ‘Disability’, Court Says” [Daniel Schwartz]