Author Archives: Brian Muse

Netflix Settles Massachusetts ADA Lawsuit: What It Means for Online Businesses

If you follow this blog you know that we’ve spent a fair amount of ink covering the recent ADA lawsuits brought against Netflix.  These cases (one brought in Massachusetts federal court and another in California federal court) allege that the company violated the ADA by failing to offer “closed captioning” options for all its Internet streamed movies.  The results have been a split decision for Netflix.  The Massachusetts court held (without deciding liability) that Netflix Internet-streamed movies constituted a public accommodation that must comply with the requirements of the ADA.  The California court reached the opposite conclusion and dismissed that …

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ADA Checklist for Pool Lifts

The ADA’s Deadline for Installing Pool Lifts is January 1, 2013! It is now past Labor Day and if you are a hotel or motel owner outside of the warmer climates, you are likely running through your checklist to prepare your swimming pools for winter. This year you will need to add “ADA Compliance” to your list of annual checks. As of January 1, 2013, swimming pools that are public accommodations (e.g. pools that can be used by the public or by hotel/motel guests) must ensure accessible means of entry for the disabled. Unless your pool has permissible sloped entries …

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Where to Start When Auditing Your Business’s ADA Compliance

As you know if you are a frequent reader of this blog, many states have seen spikes in the number of federal lawsuits filed under the ADA for alleged violations of accessibility requirements. Individual plaintiffs have filed upwards of one hundred lawsuits in some states. Class actions are also on the rise. What can you do to protect your business from ADA lawsuits and determine if you are a likely target? If a complete audit of the your ADA compliance and renovation of non-complying features is not realistic or readily achievable, evaluating the hot spots which are the most frequent …

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California Legislature Passes State Disability Lawsuit Abuse Act

The California legislature recently passed a new amendment to its civil rights law (the Unruh Civil Rights Act) aimed at curbing abuses related to disability discrimination lawsuits against public accommodations (i.e. businesses that offer goods and services to the public). This bill, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) received strong bipartisan support and now awaits a decision from Governor Jerry Brown. Recent figures show that California is home to approximately 40% of all claims against businesses alleging a failure to satisfy accessibility requirements for the disabled. As in most states, plaintiffs will …

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Is Employee Training Your Weakest Link?

Recently I read a national news story about a disabled veteran who claimed that an employee of a hotel denied and mocked his request for assistance in getting his wheelchair down a flight of stairs. Although I lay no claim to knowing the true facts of the incident, or the hotel’s ADA procedures, the story did get me thinking about the vital role employees play in ensuring compliance with a business’s public accommodations obligations. Simply put, your employees can be either your greatest strength in ensuring compliance and avoiding lawsuits, or your Achilles heel. Most businesses have detailed policies prohibiting disability …

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Is Your ATM Machine A Lawsuit Waiting To Happen?

The 2010 Amendments to the ADA (and accompanying changes to the ADA’s design guidelines) require owners and operators of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to modify new and existing ATMs to improve access for the disabled. These mandated changes, which required compliance by March 15, 2012, have resulted in a rash of lawsuits across the country, including significant class action lawsuits in Texas and Pennsylvania. These lawsuits have largely targeted smaller financial institutions, including community banks and credit unions. ATM Accessibility Requirements Although the ADA has required ATMs to be “accessible” to the disabled since 1991, the 2010 Amendments provide new …

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Netflix Part Deux: California Federal Court Rules that Netflix is Not a Public Accommodation

Recently I wrote about a decision from the federal district court in Massachusetts which held that the ADA applied to Netflix’s Internet-streamed movies. That decision (which is now subject to a petition for appeal) would have required the company to ensure that all of its “on demand” movies had closed captioning to accommodate customers with hearing-related disabilities. Recently, another federal court—this time in California—ruled in favor of Netflix dismissing a claim that the company violated the ADA by failing to provide closed captioning for every movie in its “streaming video library.” Unlike the District of Massachusetts, which held that the ADA’s …

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Federal Appeals Court Reinstates ADA Lawsuit Against Disney Over Segway Use

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated a lawsuit against Walt Disney World Company that alleges the company violated the ADA by refusing to allow a theme park patron to use a “Segway.” The Plaintiff, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, claims that Disney unfairly discriminated against her when the company denied her request to use her Segway at Disneyland. The park’s policies allow patrons to use wheelchairs and motorized scooters, but prohibit two wheeled vehicles, which would include Segways. The California district court dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim finding that the use of a Segway was not a necessary accommodation …

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What Does “Readily Achievable” Mean and How Much Will It Cost Me?

In several recent posts I’ve discussed how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public accommodations (i.e. businesses that offer goods and services to the public) occupied prior to January 26, 1993 to only make modifications that are “readily achievable.” I’ve received a number of requests to comment on what this term means and how a business determines whether a proposed modification (or claimed ADA violation) is readily achievable. Although there are no bright lines and each situation presents its own unique factors to consider, there are a number of factors that businesses can and should consider in deciding whether …

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Up to Code and Out of Compliance: The Local Building Code Trap

When I meet a new client facing an ADA public accommodations lawsuit, one of the first questions they often ask is: “How could this come up, the city inspector told us our property was in compliance?” The answer is, unfortunately, simple. The requirements of local and state building and construction codes do not always satisfy all the mandates of the ADA and can often become a trap for business owners. The fact that your property may satisfy applicable local, state, and building codes, including codes modeled after the IBC (International Building Code) and UCC (Uniform Construction Code) are no guarantee …

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