The Pandemic Slowed 2020 Federal ADA Title III Filings But 2021 May Be a Record Breaker

Maybe it was adjusting to working from home, overseeing children during the work day, or just the shock of the pandemic, but the ADA Title III plaintiffs’ bar filed far fewer lawsuits in April and May 2020.  This ultimately led to an overall reduction in the number of cases filed in 2020 as compared to 2019.

Plaintiffs filed 10,982 ADA Title III lawsuits in 2020, compared to 11,053 filed in 2019. That’s a reduction of less than 1%.  Considering that the country was gripped by a pandemic for much of 2020, this is still quite a large number of lawsuits.

Total Number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Each Year January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2020

[Total Number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Each Year January 1, 2013 – December 31, 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]

The months of April and May saw a steep decline in filings (572 and 538 respectively), but they rebounded quickly in June, with 857 filings.

Total Number of Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed Per Month January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020

[Total Number of Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed Per Month January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020: January: 971; February: 927; March: 886; April: 572; May: 538; June: 857; July: 954; August: 1,079; September: 1,049; October: 1,072;  November: 983; December: 1,094]

These numbers include Title III lawsuits filed on all grounds — physical facilities, websites and mobile applications, service animals, Braille Gift cards, 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.

In what should be a surprise to no one, California had the most federal filings – 5,869.  New York landed in second place, with 2,238, and Florida was third, with 1,208.  California broke its record for lawsuits by a staggering 22%.  New York and Florida saw decreases in their numbers; New York was down slightly, but Florida had the lowest number of filings since 2013.

California, New York, Florida ADA Tile III Federal Lawsuits 2013-2020

[California, New York, Florida ADA Tile III Federal Lawsuits 2013-2020: California: 2013: 995; 2014 1,866; 2015: 1,659; 2016: 2,458; 2017: 2,751; 2018: 4,249; 2019: 4,794; 2020: 5,869; Florida: 2013: 816; 2014: 1,553; 2015: 1,338; 2016:1,663; 2017: 1,488; 2018: 1,941; 2019: 1,885; 2020: 1,208; New York: 2013: 125; 2014: 212; 2015: 366; 2016: 543; 2017: 1,023; 2018: 2,338; 2019: 2,635; 2020: 2,238]

Texas and Georgia rounded out the top five, with 285 and 240 filings, respectively.  Texas regained 4th place from Georgia, increasing from 239 to 285 filings in 2020.  Georgia decreased slightly in 2020 from 243 to 240.

Top 10 States with Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020

[Top 10 States with Federal ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020: California: 5, 869; New York: 2,238; Florida: 1,208; Texas: 285; Georgia: 240; Illinois: 172; Pennsylvania: 163; Colorado: 132; New Jersey: 70; Massachusetts: 66]

Other states with more than 100 filings included Illinois (172), Pennsylvania (163) and Colorado (132).  Illinois and Pennsylvania traded places from 2019, and Colorado surpassed New Jersey, increasing by a healthy margin over its 81 cases in 2019.