The intricacies of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defenses become apparent when we dig into recent case law. A compelling example is a recent case where the Court dismissed the plaintiff's claims due to their failure to satisfy the standing requirement. This examination will explore the facets of Suris v. Crutchfield New Media, LLC, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96603, including a discussion on the standards of standing and mootness in ADA cases, essential considerations for an effective ADA defense strategy.
Understanding the Standing Requirement in ADA Defense
To establish standing, a plaintiff must show that they suffered an actual, concrete, and particularized injury that is either imminent or has already occurred. They also need to demonstrate that the injury was likely caused by the defendant and would likely be redressed by judicial relief (TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190, 2203, 210 L. Ed. 2d 568 (2021)).
In the ADA context, a plaintiff seeking injunctive relief has suffered an injury in fact when they can allege past injury under the ADA, that the discriminatory treatment would likely continue, and they intended to return to the subject location (Calcano, 36 F.4th at 74).
In the case at hand, the plaintiff's claim failed on the third prong of the Calcano test: intent to return. Their failure to offer any "non-conclusory factual allegations" demonstrating a plausible intention to return to the defendant's website due to barriers of access was the determining factor.
The Importance of Concrete Facts in ADA Defense
The absence of concrete facts regarding the plaintiff's intention to return to the website was a significant element leading to the dismissal. A successful ADA defense strategy should carefully scrutinize the plaintiff's allegations for factual context, especially their intention to return to the site or location in question.
Cases where district courts found an intent to return adequately pled, plaintiffs typically alleged more concrete facts (Walters v. Fischer Skis U.S., LLC; Chalas v. Barlean's Organic Oils, LLC). By contrast, courts have dismissed cases for lack of standing where plaintiffs raised conclusory allegations, as seen in Velazquez v. Everlast Worldwide, Inc. and Tavarez v. Moo Organic Chocolates, LLC.
Mootness as a Key Element in ADA Defense
Beyond the standing requirement, mootness also emerged as a critical element in this case. The defendant successfully demonstrated that the plaintiff's claims were moot, arguing that they had corrected the error that led to the identified videos lacking closed captioning, making it unreasonable to expect the discriminatory treatment to recur.
This scenario highlights the importance of proactive measures in an ADA defense strategy. Demonstrating a commitment to remedying identified accessibility issues can effectively render ADA claims moot.
In ADA defense, understanding and applying standing and mootness concepts can mean the difference between dismissal and proceeding to trial. This case underscores the importance of these elements in an ADA defense strategy, emphasizing the need for concrete facts to back plaintiff's claims and proactive measures from defendants to address accessibility issues. For effective ADA defense, these factors are crucial.