Seyfarth Synopsis: ADA Title III lawsuit filings in federal courts on pace for a record year.
Regular readers will doubtless recall that 2020 was a down year (but just barely) for lawsuits filed in federal court alleging violations of Title III of the ADA. Our mid-year total was 4,751, due to lockdowns in April and May. That was the lowest mid-year number we’d seen since 2017.
But filings picked up in the second half of 2020, and they’ve continued to rise in 2021. In March 2021, we saw 1,240 filings—the most ever in one month. Our total for January 2021 through June 2021 is 6,304, which puts us on track to see 12,000 filings this year. Now, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t count your chickens (or your ADA Title III filings) before they’re hatched (or filed). There could be a big downturn ahead. But that’s where we are right now.
[Total Number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Each Year January 1, 2013-June 30, 2021: 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: 10,982, 1% decrease from 2019; 2021: 6,304 as of 6/30/21]
These numbers include Title III lawsuits filed on all grounds — physical facilities, websites and mobile applications, service animals, sign language interpreters, mask-wearing requirements, hotel reservations websites, and more. These numbers do not include the significant number of disability access lawsuits filed in state courts which are more difficult to accurately track or demand letters that never result in a lawsuit.
In what will come as a surprise to no one, California led the pack with 3,340 filings, followed by New York (1,423) and Florida (609). Again, no surprises there. Coming in at #4 was Texas (179) and Nevada (122) rounds out the top 5 states.
[Top 10 States with Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed January 1, 2021-June 30, 2021: California: 3,340; New York: 1,423; Florida: 609; Texas: 179; Nevada: 122; Georgia: 85; Pennsylvania: 81; Illinois: 61; Tennessee: 51; Washington: 49]
It’s probably not useful to compare 2021 to 2020, as that was such an aberrant year (in so many ways), so let’s have a look at 2021 as compared to 2019 for the top five states.
[Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed Mid-Year in Top Five States 2019 Compared to 2021: California: 2019 Mid-Year: 2,444, 2021 Mid-Year: 3,340; New York: 2019 Mid-Year: 1,212, 2021 Mid-Year: 1,423; Florida: 2019 Mid-Year: 1,074, 2021 Mid-Year: 609; Texas: 2019 Mid-Year: 128, 2021 Mid-Year: 179; Nevada: 2019 Mid-Year: 126, 2021 Mid-Year: 122]
Total filings were up 11.2% from 2019 to 2021. California filings were up 26.8% from 2019 to 2021. New York filings were up 14.8%. Bucking the trend, Florida lawsuits were down significantly from 2019 to 2021—a 43.2% drop.
What kinds of cases are responsible for the dramatic change in these states? While we have not analyzed the data, one law firm in southern California filed over five hundred lawsuits about hotel reservations websites allegedly not providing sufficient disclosures about accessibility features in hotels starting in the fall of 2020 and continuing into 2021. While many of these started in state court, most were removed to federal court. We also continue to see lawsuits about physical access barriers and website accessibility.
What will the final tally be for 2021? We predict a new record will be set and the number of lawsuits will exceed 12,000.
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.