By Minh N. Vu, Kristina Launey, and Susan Ryan

Seyfarth synopsis:  Businesses enjoyed a brief reprieve in ADA Title III lawsuits while the country was shut down but the rest of the year will most likely be business as usual.  

In the first six months of 2020, 4,759 ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in federal court, as compared to 5,592 of such suits filed in the first six months of 2019, for a decrease of 15 percent during this period.  This downtick is largely due to the significantly fewer  filings in April and May of 2020, when most of the country was shut down.  Based on this data, we predict that 2020 will end with fewer lawsuits than in 2019, but expect numbers to pick back up with the country and courts slowly reopening, for a year-end decrease that will likely be much less than 15 percent.

[Total Number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Each Year, January 1, 2020 – June 30, 2020; 2013: 2,722; 2014: 4,436 – 63% increase over 2013; 2015: 4,789 – 8% increase over 2014; 2016: 6,601 – 38% increase over 2015; 2017: 7,663 – 16% increase over 2016; 2018: 10,163 – 33% increase over 2017; 2019: 11,053 – 9% increase over 2018; 2020: 4,759 as of 6/30/20]

The number of lawsuits filed per month dipped significantly in April and May – with 572 and 538 lawsuits, respectively – and then rebounded in June and July.  July saw 954 lawsuits filed — the second highest monthly number in 2020.  July’s sharp uptick suggests that federal courts will be very busy with ADA Title III lawsuit filings for the rest of 2020.

[Total Number of Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed Per Month January 1, 2020 – July 31, 2020: January: 973; February: 930; March: 888; April: 572; May: 538; June: 858; July: 954]

California (2,702 lawsuits), New York (756 lawsuits), and Florida (574 lawsuits) continue to lead the country in the number of federal filings. The top ten states for federal ADA Title III filings has changed only slightly, with the addition of Massachusetts which has had 39 lawsuits this year.  Alabama fell out of the top ten with only 18 lawsuits.

[Top 10 States with Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed January 1, 2020 – June 30, 2020: California: 2,702; New York: 756; Florida: 574; Texas: 136;  Georgia: 120; Illinois: 85; Pennsylvania: 72; Massachusetts: 39; Colorado: 37; New Jersey: 26]

What are these lawsuits about?  Based on the many cases we see in our practice, most cases concern allegedly inaccessible physical facilities or websites, or hotel reservations websites that do not have sufficient accessibility information about their accessible rooms and common areas.  Some plaintiffs have also filed suit about strict COVID-19 mask policies, though it seems most plaintiffs’ firms are waiting to see what happens in those cases before diving in.

Our Methodology:  Our overall ADA Title III lawsuit numbers come from the federal court’s docketing system, PACER.  However, because the area of law code that covers ADA Title III cases also includes ADA Title II cases, our research department reviews the complaints to remove those cases from the count.