Writer Rebecca Skloot, who did this Sunday’s NYTimes Magazine article on exotic service animals and the battles under the ADA as to whether they have to be admitted to transit, stores and restaurants, has been providing updates and outtakes on the issue at her ScienceBlogs site CultureDish (via Obbie).
So Estelle Stamm, 65, is suing for $10 million, saying she’s protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act because the animal protects her from panic attacks and other mental symptoms as well as assisting her with her poor hearing. The city denies she’s disabled at all and cites online postings in which Stamm said the dog has “tremendous killing power” and asserted: “Livestock guard dogs in the subways is a wonderful sight to behold. The seas of people part before us.” Stamm, a former ad agency manager, says being questioned about her disability while using transit has itself caused stress reactions. [NY Daily News via Obscure Store; more coverage of service animals litigation]
Must stores let in “social support” goats? Hot ADA issue we’ve often covered makes it into NYTimes mag [Rebecca Skloot] And Time mag tackles scandal of ADA-suit mass filing for $$, long familiar to our readers [Alison Stateman]
Can you guess mechanism by which snow globes turned out to cause fire hazard? (Then check link.) [K.C. Business Journal]
“Do Not Track” legislation could torpedo online-advertising models [ReadWriteWeb h/t @lilyhill]
What if plea-bargaining defendants could give D.A.s eBay-style feedback? [Greenfield]
UK cabinet minister wants govt to regulate Net with aim of child safety, Brit blogger says – hell, no! [Perry de Havilland, Samizdata]
As lawyer-driven mummeries go, which is worse, coffee machine overwarning or medical “informed consent”? [Happy Hospitalist]
Bogus memoirs nowadays spawn real lawsuits, as we remember from James Frey case [Elefant]
Is health care prohibition in our future? [KevinMD]
Massachusetts child support guidelines said to be highly onerous for dads already and getting worse [Bader, CEI]
A reminder: these microblog posts are based on a selection of my contributions to Twitter, which you can “follow” here.
Continuing our theme, Frances Woodard has now lodged a complaint against the public transit authority in Canada’s capital city for barring the diminutive, weasel-like predator whose companionship, according to her psychiatrist, helps her stave off panic attacks. “A letter from OC Transpo customer relations sent in May said the decision was a result of fears about allergic reactions and phobias from other passengers and reactions from other animals, such as guide dogs.” (CBC News, Jul. 23). Monday’s post on the “service monkey” lawsuit from Springfield, Mo. is here.
Latest disabled-rights lawsuit alleging exclusion of an emotional comfort/ psychiatric service animal: Debby Rose of Springfield, Mo. is suing Wal-Mart, Cox Health and the county health department over their refusals to let Richard, her macaque monkey, into various food and health settings. Richard assists Ms. Rose with her agoraphobia (fear of public and open places) and panic disorder. County officials sent out a mass mailing warning businesses that admitting monkeys such as Richard to the premises would violate health codes. (Springfield News-Leader; KSPR; Arbroath). Earlier coverage of emotional service animals: May 14, 2006 (airlines grapple with demands to seat large dogs and emotional-support goats); Feb. 28, 2005 (jury awards $314,000 to Royal Oak, Mich. woman over co-op’s no-pets policy); Oct. 18, 2005 (ferret in university dorm); July 12, 2005 (frequent-filing Californian); May 5, 2005 (Seattle grocery store owner fined $21,000); Oct. 25, 2004 (if you want to bring your pet into a San Francisco restaurant, get a note from your doctor); Dec. 2, 2004; Jul. 9, 1999 (Seattle clothing store owner made to pay fine and undergo re-education for not welcoming shaggy dog).
The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants — as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas — goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.
The following year appellate courts in New York State for the first time accepted tenants’ arguments in two cases that emotional support was a viable reason to keep a pet despite a building’s no-pets policy. Word of the cases and of the Transportation Department’s ruling spread, aided by television and the Internet. Now airlines are grappling with how to accommodate 200-pound dogs in the passenger cabin and even emotional-support goats. And businesses like restaurants not directly addressed in the airline or housing decisions face a newly empowered group of customers seeking admittance with their animals.
(Beth Landman, “Wagging the Dog, and a Finger”, May 14).
Plus: Cutting Edge of Ecstasy, dot_gimp_snark, Petulant Times, Cernovich, and Giacalone (we’re “ahead of the pundit pack” — thanks!). Orichalcum: “If I pay $200+ for a plane seat, I kinda feel I have the right not to have a goat in the seat next to me, no matter how comforting its presence is to the third person in the row.” Mark Baratelli proposes “service bottles”.
At Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, 19-year-old freshman Sarah Sevick has filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department saying her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated by the dorm’s ban on her pet ferret, which she says she needs at hand to calm her during panic attacks related to a physical disability. (“Disabilities complaint filed after ferret banned from dorm”, AP/Houston Chronicle, Oct. 14). For more on claims to accommodation of companion animals under disabled-rights law, see May 5, etc.
Erma Miller has filed 21 discrimination claims in southern California over alleged failure to serve her because of her assistance dog. Some defendants suspect a scam: Miller regularly alleges that the failure to permit entrance to the dog meant she couldn’t use the restroom and soiled herself. They’re also suspicious of Miller’s “practice of providing Rottweilers to other people, who took the dogs to businesses, got bounced and filed lawsuits,” and hints that her disbarred-attorney ex-con husband has a hand in the litigation. Lynn Stites had served eight years for a multi-million-dollar litigation-related insurance fraud scheme out of a Grisham novel:
During the 1980s, Stites organized a clandestine network of attorneys who infiltrated complex civil cases in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties by getting insured defendants to hire them in place of their insurance company lawyers.
Posing as independent and, at times, snarling adversaries, they worked in concert to manufacture new legal controversies so that lawsuits would grow in complexity and cost.
In some cases, the lawyers paid kickbacks to clients for the right to defend them on the insurers’ dime. Stites essentially franchised the litigation, directing strategy and assigning lawyers to various defendants. His minions, in turn, kicked back a cut of their take—paying in cash, precious metals, and improvements to his house.
Three cases are scheduled for trial in the next few months. Miller has already collected six digits worth of settlements, but a suit against Marriott did not go as well:
As part of her deposition, Marriott lawyers videotaped Miller with Giggy, the Rottweiler mix involved in the Marriott suit and several others. Giggy could not obey commands to sit, to pick up Miller’s cane or to help her through the door.
Disclosure: At my former firm, I represented Marriott in unrelated litigation. As with all my posts, I speak for myself, and not for my current employer, my former employers, nor my former clients.
Another Seattle case in which a merchant got in trouble for not admitting a dog which was accompanying its owner for purposes of psychological assistance (as distinct from the service provided by seeing-eye and hearing dogs for the physically disabled). This time the Wicker Basket grocery store in Ballard was fined $21,000 after owner Hojoon Park wouldn’t let the dog into the shop. (“Merchant fined $21,000 for barring service dog”, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 3). For earlier cases, see Feb. 28 of this year; Oct. 25 and Dec. 2, 2004; and Jul. 9, 1999, from Seattle.