Ninth Circuit Judges Express Dissatisfaction With Serial Plaintiffs And Their Lawyers – Lawsuits, Appeals And Compensation

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Seyfarth Synopsis: Ninth Circuit judges are getting tougher on attorneys who represent serial plaintiffs by cutting their fees and threatening penalties for citing outdated law.

In 2021, plaintiffs filed 11,452 federal lawsuits alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). More than half (5,930) of these were filed in California. While most California judges don’t seem particularly concerned that the vast majority of these cases are filed by repeat plaintiffs, some judges’ patience is running out.

In a recent decision regarding fees awarded to a predominant serial plaintiff, the Ninth Circuit made rather pointed comments about serial plaintiffs and their attorneys. Citing a law journal article advocating for prosecution reform, the Court said: “The ADA has responded to the need for meaningful disability protection legislation; however, one of the unintended consequences of this law has been the widespread abuses that have formed due to the actions of the ADA’s serial plaintiffs.” The Ninth Circuit then devoted several pages of its opinion to the operation of these lawsuits “to get quick money” and lamented that “the number of ADA cases in the Central District of California has increased from 3% of its civilian role to about 20% in recent years.” The Court noted that ” [a]hallmark of abusive ADA litigation is the use of complaint forms containing a multitude of standard allegations of varying merit.”

The Ninth Circuit Court found that in the federal trial court, District Judge Wu’s application of a blended rate of $300 for all attorneys working on a case and a 65% reduction in all the charge was justified due to the routine nature of the work and lack of the accused. opposition on the merits. With these reductions, the plaintiff’s firm received $10,000 in fees instead of the $34,000 it claimed for summary judgment work.

The Court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the district court failed to adequately explain the basis for the blended rate and the downside multiplier. He held that the district court “was not required to write the equivalent of a law review article justifying the award of its fees; it only had to provide a “concise but clear explanation “reasons for its decision”. He found that the district court did, finding that the ADA’s serial litigation was not complex and did not require partner-level work, much less two partners charging $500 an hour. .

The ruling should be helpful to companies battling fee claims filed by serial plaintiffs in routine cases.

In another recent decision, District Judge Otis Wright of the Central District of California made clear his intolerance for the sloppy work of plaintiffs’ attorneys in ADA Title III cases. Judge Wright dismissed the plaintiff’s motion for default judgment against a liquor store because, among other things, the plaintiff failed to establish that the alleged barriers denied her access to public housing, or that the removal of barriers was easily achievable. On this last issue, the court observed that the plaintiff had failed in its initial obligation “to show plausibly how the cost of removing the architectural barrier at issue does not exceed the benefits in the circumstances”, as required by the Ninth Circuit Control precedent. Indeed, the court found that the plaintiff had completely ignored this precedent. The court ordered the plaintiff to justify “why a penalty of up to $8,001 should not be imposed on the attorney for repeatedly citing a law that was repealed by the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Lopez v. .Catalina Channel Express”.

These decisions show that the courts share companies’ frustration with ADA complaints that fail to make specific factual allegations, demand unreasonable fees, or fail to comply with applicable law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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