In March 2022, serial Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) plaintiff Traci Morgan filed a lawsuit against Zarco Hotels Inc., alleging that the hotel’s website was not accessible in violation of the ADA and Unruh Civil Rights Act.

The plaintiff alleged he was blind, and that the Hollywood Hotel’s website was not compatible with software that scans the website pages and reads them aloud to him. Morgan had filed hundreds of nearly identical lawsuits in the past, represented by notorious law firm Potter Handy, LLP (AKA Center for Disability Access).

JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense team, led by Stuart K. Tubis, Esq. and Martin Orlick Esq., represented the hotel’s owner, Zarco Hotels, Inc. After investigating the website’s underlying code at the outset of the case using website experts at Accessible Crew and finding that the website met or exceeded WCAG 2.1 Level AA Standards, they concluded that the claims lacked merit and that the website was, in fact, accessible.

These facts were presented to Morgan’s attorneys in technical detail, with a request that the lawsuit be dropped. Morgan refused.

It is not uncommon for ADA plaintiffs who file hundreds of lawsuits to refuse to drop lawsuits, even when they lack merit. Instead, they often try to pressure the defendant into settlement to avoid expensive litigation. Zarco Hotels was not intimidated and instructed JMBM to file a motion for summary judgement on its behalf, which was filed on August 18, 2022. Facing a likely defeat, Morgan finally dismissed the lawsuit before the motion could be heard. Continue ›

Today, the US Access Board announced that it is seeking final public comment on its newly proposed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for the use of lower transfer heights for medical diagnostic equipment in medical diagnostics and treatment. The US Access Board is the federal organization that develops guidelines for the ADA. It works with professionals and advocacy groups to develop guidelines for various aspects of the ADA to provide greater access to goods and services. The Access Board is required to seek public comment before finalizing its proposed guidelines. After receiving public comment, the Access Board presents its proposed guidelines to the Department of Justice (DOJ) which then adopts all or part of the proposed guidelines into the ADA.

The Access board has been working for some time on the development of formal guidelines for lower transfer heights of medical diagnostic equipment. Once implemented, these guidelines will have an immediate impact on diagnostic equipment manufacturers, hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices throughout the country. The lower height requirements are intended to provide easier transfer for patients using wheelchairs, walkers, or other assistive devices. These diagnostic devices typically include, among other things, examination tables, scanning devices, and chairs for diagnosis.

Historically, medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) has been, and continues to be, inaccessible to many people in wheelchairs, which can lead to misdiagnosis or barriers to basic care and examinations. Continue ›

On June 12, 2023, the California Assembly’s Judicial Committee re-drafted the content of an existing bill, AB1757, to pertain specifically to website accessibility and the adoption of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.1 into disabled access law. AB1757 specifically permits plaintiffs the right to sue businesses if the business’s website fails to “meet all of the Success Criteria set forth in the” WCAP 2.1 guidelines. Furthermore, AB1757 also allows the business to sue its website developer for any of these failures.

Most significantly, a plaintiff who prevails under AB1757 will be entitled to collect all damages, including, but not limited to, any statutory damages and attorney’s fees paid as a result of a lawsuit.

Why is This Significant for Not Only California Businesses, but Potentially Every Website Owner in the U.S.?

Because the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) does not have official guidelines regarding website accessibility, it is very possible, if not inevitable, that AB1757’s impact will stretch far-beyond California law, and potentially be adopted as the governing website accessibility guidelines of the entire nation.

Who Does AB1757 Apply To? Continue ›

Manning Law, APC has been filing hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of serial plaintiffs for alleged violations of the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code § 51 et seq. and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Manning Law, APC generally files each lawsuit on behalf of one of the plaintiffs listed below:

  • James Rutherford
  • Anthony Bouyer
  • Poupak Barekat
  • Rebecca Castillo
  • James Shayler
  • Jennifer Carbine
  • Perla Mageno
  • Carmen John Perri
  • Gabriela Cabrera
  • Jesus Torres

The lawsuit will generally allege that one of the above plaintiffs is physically disabled, that he or she visited the property on a certain date (often several months before filing the lawsuit) and that he or she encountered accessibility barriers that prevented full and equal access at the property. Common barriers alleged include the following:

  • Accessible parking slopes exceed requirements
  • Paths of travel slopes exceed requirements
  • Incorrect or missing signage
  • Lack of accessible dining surfaces
  • Inaccessible sales counter
  • Inaccessible entrance

Continue ›

typing-1024x681Special districts are independent, governmental agencies or entities established to deliver specialized services to the community, including health, safety, and well-being. Think fire departments, sewer/water districts, and parks departments.

Often special districts use private, outside companies to manage parts of the special district’s operations, such as hosting and maintenance of websites. Under Title II of the ADA, public sector websites are required to be accessible for persons with disabilities. Most commonly, this requires that the website be coded properly to be compatible with screen reader software, which enables blind users who rely on that software to listen to, use and navigate the website.

Disabled plaintiffs can, and often do, file lawsuits against public sector entities for violation of the ADA when websites or other elements are not accessible. Penalties for noncompliance can be severe. Typically, an ADA plaintiff will seek injunctive relief (a court order requiring compliance), attorneys’ fees, and in some states (including California and New York) statutory damages. In California, for example, statutory damages of $4,000 per occurrence can add up quickly. Large class action lawsuits can reach into the millions. Continue ›

Wooden book cases holding a variety of green and red legal texts.
Unruh Act Background

While many people are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act often receives less attention. Yet it has become the focus of thousands of lawsuits against landlords and businesses in California.

The California Unruh Civil Rights Act is a state law in California that prohibits discrimination based on protected categories, including sex, race, religion, and disability status. Also known as the Unruh Act, it was named after the former California Assemblyman Jesse M. Unruh, who authored the bill and successfully fought for its passage in 1959. The act was codified as California Civil Code sections 51, et seq.

The Unruh Act requires businesses and public accommodations to provide equal access to their services and facilities. This includes physical wheelchair access, sign language interpreters, and under some theories website accessibility for the blind, among other things. Continue ›

A group known as the United African Asian Abilities Club (UAAAC), through its attorney David Wakefield, has been filing a large number of lawsuits against apartment complexes. The largely boilerplate lawsuits, filed mainly in Los Angeles and Southern California, allege violations of the Fair Housing Act due to accessibility conditions at the apartment property and/or website.

Below is a sample version of one of the group’s lawsuits, which is similar to others it has filed:

A copy of a lawsuit filed by David Wakefield

Continue ›

Photo showing a judge's gavel.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulates “places of public accommodation,” which covers nearly all businesses, commercial landlords, commercial tenants and their websites that are open to the public.

The basic rule is that “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any private entity who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.” 28 CFR 36.201. The ADA applies to both the business itself and the landlord.

This requires that physical features of brick and mortar establishments meet certain standards. For example, accessible parking spaces must have a slope no greater than 2.1% with proper dimensions and signage. There is also a duty to provide “effective communication” under Title III of the ADA. This, at times, requires that American Sign Language (ASL) translators be provided free of charge and that websites be coded to allow blind users to use screen reading software on the website. Continue ›

Recently, there has been a flood of ADA lawsuits against small businesses in the City of Berkeley. Berkeley has historically been overlooked by serial ADA plaintiffs, seeing only about a few cases each year. However, it seems like these serial ADA plaintiffs have turned their attention to the City, which should, at the very least, force all Berkeley public establishments to take notice of ADA issues.

Below are three basis tips that can help protect your restaurant or business from being subjected to these serial ADA lawsuits.

CASp Inspections

A Certified Access Specialist (“CASp”) inspection is the first line of defense that should be conducted on all properties that are used as a public accommodations. Public accommodations are any and all commercial or noncommercial entities that are open to and serve the general public. These include restaurants, clothing stores, record stores, bars, hotels, etc. Continue ›

As many business owners and commercial landlords know all too well, the number of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits appears out of control, particularly in California where approximately 40 percent of ADA lawsuits are filed. Why is this?

ADA_Signing-300x202The answer lies in the legislative design. The ADA was signed into law under the George H.W. Bush administration in 1990. It was designed to avoid further government bureaucracy by allowing aggrieved individuals to enforce the law by filing private lawsuits with the courts, rather than having a governmental agency enforce the law.

While this approach sounded attractive on paper, and perhaps could have been if executed properly, it has instead given rise to a cottage industry of serial ADA plaintiffs who file dozens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of ADA lawsuits.