Lawyer Extortion letters over ADA

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11/21/2017

Apparently their are scumbag lawyers filing over a 100 lawsuits a day against bed and breakfast and other public lodging owners.  The attached was just posted on facebook by a B&B owner.  I'm sharing it as a word of advice that you likely need to update your web site to include a statement about what your B&B does or does not offer in regards to ADA.  Apparently some Florida law allows the attorney to write you a letter, on behalf of their "client", informing you of compliance issues regarding your web site.  The Florida law requires you to pay all of the attorney's fees for this service.  Which are likely in the neighborhood of around $12,000.00. 

It shouldn't take you more than a couple hours to make some changes that will protect you.  The web site itself doesn't have to be 100% ADA compliant -- that's voluntary.  But the info about your facility and if it's compliant needs to be there.

Specifically, the law says:

With certain exceptions, “places of lodging” must now:

  1. • Ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals without disabilities (note the use of the word “same,” not “substantially similar,” as requested by some hotel industry lobbyists);
  2.  Identify and describe accessible features and inaccessible features in the hotel and guest rooms in enough detail to allow an individual with disabilities to assess whether a hotel meets his or her needs;

For more info, see this document:  http://www.hotellawyer.com/files/books/pdf/ada-compliance-and-defense-guide.pdf

 

 

PhineasSwann's picture
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You'll be happy to know that one set of scumbag lawyers and scumbag litigant are about to get their a**es handed to them: The Riverside County (California) DA has filed a massive civil lawsuit against them for extortion. Sounds like the lawyers better hire some lawyers!

https://calodging.com/sites/default/files/inline-documents/glr-weekly/State_V_Rutherford.pdf

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Generic's picture
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Good. Here, they were sending in name requests to sue for illegal downloads and the Internet operators started sending them bills for the time it took to do the lookups. They sued them and the government sided with the internet operators who aren't responsible to do work for free. At $50 a name... it sort of ended a lot of the nonsense and extortion.

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Last summer we got an email blast from our local Chamber of Commerce that there was a "duo" going around to various establishments in the big city (not just lodging), looking for non-compliance and filing lawsuits right and left.   I believe we here are now given some time to comply before it goes to court, but regardless, it can be very expensive.  My husband and I were told that we were exempt from ADA, as long as we didn't remodel too much (there's a ratio / rule / algorithm that triggers compliance to new building codes), but we were told that no one is exempt from the website compliance.  Thanks for the reminder, and the link.

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Existing businesses are also covered by the ADA - there is no grandfather clause in the ADA. They are required to remove architectural barriers if the changes are readily achievable. They are also required to allow guests with disabilities to be accompanied by a service animal, and are required to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services necessary for effective communication.

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mdubin@ADAexpertise.com www.ADAexpertise.com
Former Senior Trial Attorney, US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section 1992-2005
Responsible for nationwide enforcement of the ADA on behalf of the United States

 

OnTheShore's picture
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Almost all of the referenced letter is boilerplate, and probably could be posted on an open forum by redacting the confidential identifying information. Maybe WOBB could provide a scan of the letter they received (redacting the confidential bits)?

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OnTheShore wrote:

Almost all of the referenced letter is boilerplate, and probably could be posted on an open forum by redacting the confidential identifying information. Maybe WOBB could provide a scan of the letter they received (redacting the confidential bits)?

They can post the whole thing as long as it's something they personally received. The initial post said it was copied from another innkeeper's post on a private group. That's the part that's not allowed - copying from private group posts elsewhere.

BTW, if seen here by the innkeeper whose post it was on that private group, that person can ask the group admin to remove WOBB from the group. That's happened a number of times already.

 

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OnTheShore's picture
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MidwestBB was the opening poster, WOBB only reported receiving themselves a virtually identical letter as the one originally posted, sent by the same lawyer working for the same client.

I agree that sharing verbatim posts and confidential images from a private group is a problem (without the permission of the original poster), but would argue that sharing (in a way that does not violate any confidences) generalizable information that is likely to be useful to others should be encouraged, regardless if that information was first learned by the person sharing from something originally posted on a private group

 

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

Sorry, I got my posters mixed up.

I think it's better to ask if it's ok to post, even if redacted. 

PhineasSwann's picture
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The link to the recommendations by hotellawyer certainly make it worthwhile, I think. 

Arks's picture
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MidwestBB wrote:

...Apparently some Florida law allows ...Specifically, the law says...

How would Florida law apply in any way to facilities in other states? I'm sure Florida and California and Mass. have lots of laws we don't obey here in the fly-over states!

Edited to add: I went ahead and put website accessibility info on each of my rooms, both on the homepage by the cancellation policy, and on the FAQ page. I didn't do it because of some Florida law that doesn't apply to me, but because it's a sensible thing to have there, and was easy to add. 

Regarding website compliance, I think something federal, ADA or something, already requires that websites be accessible to the disabled. At least, something I read here last year caused me to go into my website and add "alternative text" on all the images, so people who can't see well can use the computer's screen reading app to read a description of what the photos show, if they can't actually see the photos.

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With respect to websites, there are two areas in particular to be aware of -- the ADA requires the website to be accessible to guests with disabilities, including guests who are blind, who use screen readers, guests who are deaf, who need videos to be captioned, and guests with mobility disabilities who cannot use a mouse but rather, use the keyboard to move around the site. Essentially, the site needs to be compliant with WCAG 2.0.

In addition, the ADA requires places of lodging to post enough information on the site for a guest with a disability to be able to independently assess whether the accessible features of the property meet their needs, among other reservation requirements. 

www.ADAexpertise.com 

PhineasSwann's picture
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My understanding from my reading is that as long as you have text in all your photos' "alt" tags, WordPress will integrate with the software visually impaired guests use to read web pages and you should be fine. 

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11/21/2017

It's way more than that.  You're supposed to have tabindex's set so that the site can be navigated by keyboard only, high contrast between background color and text, ARIA tags in the html, ALT tags on the images, unique ID's on all html tags that use IDs, etc.

 

PhineasSwann wrote:

My understanding from my reading is that as long as you have text in all your photos' "alt" tags, WordPress will integrate with the software visually impaired guests use to read web pages and you should be fine. 

PhineasSwann's picture
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Added the necessary verbiage and information last night to my site. If I get a letter I'm just going to hand it over to my lawyer and have him write a "go f- yourself" letter in legaleze. 

Morticia's picture
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Please do not share documents here from another, private, group forum.

The issue with the ADA compliance lawsuits is real and can be tragic for some small businesses. We don't need to add to their grief by sharing the documentation here if they have not done so themselves.

If anyone cares to share their own info, that's something else altogether.

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11/21/2017

You may as well delete the whole thread then since without the relevant info this post isn't meaningful to anyone.

Morticia wrote:
Please do not share documents here from another, private, group forum.

Morticia's picture
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MidwestBB wrote:

You may as well delete the whole thread then since without the relevant info this post isn't meaningful to anyone.

Morticia wrote:
Please do not share documents here from another, private, group forum.

You can edit your original post if you want to delete it. Or, the group moderator can remove the post entirely if you prefer. You have to contact Swirt directly for that.

The substance and conversation are important. However, we've had this before where someone shared private files from another forum and the owner of the information was not happy to find their post on an open forum.

This is especially true when it involves lawyers.

A lot of folks on here are also on that FB group and read the info there. Or, they have received the same mailing.

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12/19/2018

Received the same exact letter, today, with the same name/person as the plaintiff. 

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