Seyfarth Synopsis: The number of access lawsuits has surged in both Arizona state and federal courts, prompting an unprecedented intervention by the Arizona Attorney General.
By our count, nearly 300 ADA Title III lawsuits have been filed in federal court in Arizona this year to date. This number represents a dramatic increase from 2015 when only 207 lawsuits were filed for the entire year. In 2013 and 2014, there were only 20 and 8 of such lawsuits, respectively.
Four plaintiffs filed 284 of these nearly 300 2016 Arizona federal court lawsuits: Damien Mosley (132 suits), Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Foundation, Inc. (AIDF) (57 suits); Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities LLC (AID) (formerly known as Advocates for American Disabled Individuals, LLC (AADI)) (71 suits); and Santiago Abreau (24 suits).
Even more astonishing is the number of cases AIDF and AID/AADI have filed in Arizona state court under the Arizonians with Disabilities Act (AzADA) since January 2015. The AzADA is similar to the federal ADA but allows plaintiffs to recover compensatory damages. Under the ADA, prevailing private plaintiffs can only obtain injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The number of lawsuits filed by AIDF, AID, and AADI in Arizona state court (all in Maricopa County) in 2015 and 2016, according to our own research, are:
- AID/AADI: 503 cases
- AIDF: 1121 cases
In total, these plaintiffs have filed 1,624 cases since the beginning of 2015. Compare that to the 584 suits filed in Arizona federal courts since the beginning of 2015. Then compare that to the data we’ve collected on lawsuits filed in other states and nationwide.
Apparently alarmed by the number of suits flooding the Arizona court system, the Arizona Attorney General has filed a motion asking the Arizona state court in Maricopa County to consolidate all of the pending cases filed by AADI and to allow his intervention to stop what he calls a “systemic abuse of the judicial system.” The motion provides two grounds for intervention. First, it states that these lawsuits “imperils the State enforcement regime established by the Legislature” by signaling to other plaintiffs that it is more profitable to file these private suits than to utilize the state’s investigation and enforcement regime created by the AzADA which provides opportunities for a pre-litigation resolution. Second, the State of Arizona has a strong interest in how the courts apply and interpret the AzADA’s statutory scheme.
Though outcry over the years over ADA lawsuit abuse has been consistent, as well as multiple legislative attempts at reform with little meaningful effect, we are not aware of any other instance when an enforcement agency has stepped in to address the actions of a serial plaintiff. We will keep you updated on the developments.