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pools

Reports Angus Loten in the WSJ:

Small-business owners face a growing number of disabled-access lawsuits in the wake of a recent appeals-court ruling giving rise to disabled “testers,” as well as the release of detailed federal specifications for curb ramps, self-opening doors and other standards.

…A November 2013 decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a case against Marod Supermarkets found that someone who isn’t necessarily a patron could be a “tester” of disabled-access compliance. That cleared the way for individual plaintiffs to bring dozens, even hundreds, of lawsuits against multiple businesses, as serial testers….

The litigation upswing also follows the Justice Department’s release of a set of compliance standards for the 24-year-old federal disability law. Those standards, which came into force in March 2012, include detailed specifications for long-standing requirements, such as the allowable slope of a wheelchair ramp and the exact height of towel dispensers in accessible restrooms. They also introduced a new requirement for hotels with pools to provide a “pool lift” for disabled guests, which went into effect last year.

Some business owners say the lawsuits accomplish little more than providing revenue to attorneys. …

We warned about the pool-lift requirement multiple times. The article reports that plaintiffs are filing multiple suits against hotels in Florida for not having the lifts; along with Florida, California and New York account for a high share of all accessibility actions against local businesses and retailers, in part because of favorable state and city laws that increase complainants’ legal and financial leverage.

Australian journalist Jo Abi is perfectly serious about the idea:

Drowning is one of the leading cause of death in children under five with majority of those deaths occurring in backyard pools. So why haven’t backyard pools been banned? If any other product or activity caused so many injuries and deaths in our most vulnerable they would be banned, there would be lawsuits, there would be outrage. Except backyard pools are an intrinsic part of Australian culture, and it’s costing us children’s lives.

One who isn’t persuaded is Lenore Skenazy, who quotes a commenter at the Australian iVillage site:

I understand one always wants to take measures to prevent deaths, but 16 deaths a year is 0.00000064% of the population. …

We really need to be careful with these kind of ideas, it might not be the banning of cars but the amount of rules that can be added in the name of safety is and will continue to spiral out of control. People seem to want a zero fatality society yet this is not only impossible, the quest for it will create a culture and country based on fear and draconian governance. Given the rules in place now, and articles like this asking for more, 100 years from now you won’t be allowed to swim at all or build, play outside, run, experience anything really.

Lenore Skenazy will be speaking at Cato tomorrow (Wednesday)(Update: postponed to March 6 due to weather). To attend, register here.

More from comments, Bill Poser:

There’s a factor missing from this discussion. The dangers of backyard pools have to be balanced against the dangers of not having them. It seems likely that backyard pools contribute to public health in two ways: (a) by increasing the cardiovascular fitness of the people who use them, who might exercise less if they did not have access to backyard pools; (b) by teaching children to swim and keeping up the swimming ability of adults. Here again, one can learn to swim elsewhere, but it is likely that the availability of backyard pools brings about swimming instruction and practice that would otherwise not occur. We can’t formulate an intelligent policy without knowing the marginal increase in deaths from heart attacks and drownings due that would be incurred by banning backyard pools.

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Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on December 30, 2013

  • Bad lawsuit on bad theory: “Cantor Fitzgerald, American Airlines Settle 9/11 Lawsuit” [Financial Advisor mag]
  • New Jersey court: only golfer, not his companions, responsible for yelling “Fore” to warn of errant ball [TortsProf]
  • “The New Lawsuit Ecosystem: Trends, Targets and Players,” 158-page report for Chamber of Commerce, topics include emerging areas of litigation (food class actions, data privacy); also lists leading plaintiff’s lawyers in various areas [Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform]
  • “Eleventh Circuit Stacks Deck Against Defendants in Never-Ending Engle Product Liability Litigation” [Cory Andrews, WLF]
  • Beck vs. Prof. Chemerinsky on prescription drugs and pre-emption [Drug and Device Law]
  • “Outrageous Court Decisions: O’Brien v. Muskin Corp.” [Schearer; above-ground pool dive defect claim, New Jersey 1983]
  • New York rejects medical monitoring cause of action [Behrens]

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Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on July 3, 2013

  • State attorneys general and contingent-fee lawyers: West Virginia high court says OK [WV Record] Similar Nevada challenge [Daniel Fisher]
  • Driver of bus that fatally crushed pedestrian fails to convince court on can’t-bear-to-look-at-evidence theory [David Applegate, Heartland Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly]
  • UK uncovers biggest car crash scam ring, detectives say County Durham motorists were paying up to £100 extra on insurance [BBC, Guardian, Telegraph]
  • “A Litigator Reviews John Grisham’s The Litigators” [Max Kennerly]
  • Quin Hillyer, who’s written extensively on litigation abuse, is putting journalism on hold and running for Congress from Mobile, Ala. [American Spectator]
  • Not clear how man and 5-year-old son drowned in pool — he’d been hired for landscaping — but homeowner being sued [Florence, Ala.; WAFF]
  • “U.S. Legal System Ranked as Most Costly” [Shannon Green, Corp Counsel] “International comparisons of litigation costs: Europe, U.S. and Canada” [US Chamber]

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  • For most private-sector employers it’s illegal to let workers take comp time off in lieu of overtime; H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, would fix that [Hyman]
  • Christine Quinn take note: laws requiring paid sick leave do not constitute social progress [Richard Epstein]
  • Occupational hazards of bagpipe playing (other than being chased out of your neighborhood) [Donald McNeil Jr., New York Times]
  • “Phoenix ‘Not Looking for Strong Swimmers’ for Lifeguard Jobs” [David Bernstein; earlier on discrimination against deaf lifeguards]
  • Decline of full-time work in retail sector in response to ObamaCare: year’s biggest employment story? [Warren Meyer, FoxNews (largest movie theater chain cuts hours for thousands of employees)]
  • City of Philadelphia not doing well on workers’ comp program, to say the least [Workers' Compensation Institute]
  • “New labor rule will violate attorney-client privilege” [Diana Furchtgott-Roth, D.C. Examiner]
  • “Calling a Co-Worker ‘Stupid’ Not Enough to Prove ‘Disability’, Court Says” [Daniel Schwartz]

Yes, deaf lifeguard. The Sixth Circuit has ruled in favor of a would-be deaf lifeguard, saying not enough of an individualized inquiry was made into accommodating his possible placement in the life-saving position. Among the arguments the court found persuasive was that drowning persons typically do not call loudly for help, which of course leaves open the possibility that the calls for help might be coming from other persons. Some deaf persons have worked successfully as lifeguards, including Leroy Colombo, a championship swimmer who did rescues at Galveston, Tex. beaches. In the Sixth Circuit case, Oakland County, Mich., had cited safety concerns in not posting the applicant to a public wave pool. [Disability Law]

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Disabled rights roundup

by Walter Olson on August 8, 2012

  • Lawprof’s classic argument: you thought I was capable of going on a workplace rampage with a gun, and though that isn’t true, it means you perceived me as mentally disabled so when you fired me you broke the ADA [Above the Law, ABA Journal, NLJ]
  • “Fragrance-induced disabilities”: “The most frequent MCS [Multiple Chemical Sensitivity] accommodation involves implementing a fragrance-free workplace [or workzone] policy” [Katie Carder McCoy, Washington Workplace Law, earlier here, etc.]
  • Netflix seeks permission to appeal order in captioning accommodation case [NLJ, Social Media Law via Disabilities Law, earlier here, here and here]
  • EEOC presses harder on ADA coverage for obesity [PoL, earlier here, here, here, etc.]
  • Disability groups seek class action: “ADA Suit Claims Wal-Mart Checkout Terminals Are Too High for Wheelchair Users” [ABA Journal, Recorder]
  • Crunch postponed until after election: “Despite delays, chair lifts coming to public pools” [NPR Morning Edition, earlier here, here, here, etc.] Punished for advocacy: disabled groups organize boycotts of “hotels whose leaders, they say, have participated in efforts to delay regulations.” [USA Today]
  • Disabled student sues St. Louis U. med school over failure to provide more time on tests [St. L. P-D]

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Averting a Memorial Day shutdown of many public and hotel/motel pools, the Obama Department of Justice has again delayed its pending ADA lift rules. I explain at a new post at Cato.

April 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2012

  • “Public pool owners struggle to meet chair-lift deadline” [Springfield, Ill. Journal-Register, earlier]
  • Punitive damages aren’t vested entitlement/property, so why the surprise they’d be cut off in an administered Chrysler bankruptcy? [Adler]
  • More on how Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization would chip away rights of accused [Bader, Heritage, earlier]
  • Defending sale of raw milk on libertarian principle shouldn’t mean overlooking its real risks [Greg Conko/CEI; Mark Perry on one of many heavy-handed enforcement actions against milk vendors]
  • More tributes to longtime Cato Institute chairman Bill Niskanen [Regulation magazine (PDF), earlier]
  • Asbestos lawyers wrangle about alleged swiping of client files [Above the Law]
  • “Nathan Chapman & Michael McConnell: Due Process as Separation of Powers” [SSRN via Rappaport, Liberty & Law]

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Unless hotels have moved to install expensive and cumbersome wheelchair lifts, they face new fines and litigation exposure under new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations taking effect today. I explain why many pools will close as a result — and trace some of the ideological background — in my new post at Cato at Liberty (& Adler, Alkon, Frank, Adam Freedman/Ricochet (“the regulators have truly gone off the deep end,”) George Leef/Locke).

More: Notwithstanding my comments about Congressional Republicans being unhelpful, Sen. DeMint has filed a bill that would prevent the regulations from taking effect on their March 15 date. [Daily Caller] And Prof. Bagenstos defends the regulations in a way that I much fear will mislead newcomers to the topic. He emphasizes, for example, that hotel payouts resulting from federally mandated damages to complainants are for the moment unlikely. But as we know, the incentive of (one-way) attorneys’ fees has all by itself been enough to fuel a sizable volume of ADA complaint-filing, while in states like California the availability of piggyback damages under enactments like the Unruh Act turn many nominally zero-damage federal cases into highly profitable extraction propositions. As for the limitation of exposure to what is “readily achievable,” the USA Today report illustrates how uncertainty over the meaning of that term can leave pool operators exposed to risky and high-cost litigation. In the real world, fixes that wipe out the economic viability of a given pool (or the facility of which it is a part) are indeed asserted by advocacy groups to be “readily achievable.” That makes it cold comfort that some facilities can stave off liability for the moment by pledging to install the equipment by some future date.

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February 24 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 24, 2011

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It resulted in a lost product liability action against the pool maker in a recent Rhode Island case [Abnormal Use]

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“A Connecticut teenager and her mother have agreed to pay $1.1 million to the family of a toddler who drowned while the girl was baby-sitting.” No criminal charges were filed in the Cheshire, Ct. case. The family named the teenager’s mother as an additional defendant “because she allegedly recommended her daughter to baby-sit.” [WINS.com] Earlier, a 2009 New Haven Register story reported that the family also intended to sue the town of Cheshire because the teenager had taken a babysitting class under its auspices, and because the mother had gotten to know the family in her capacity as the children’s teacher. However, according to the Waterbury Republican-American, court records “do not indicate a lawsuit against the town has been filed.”

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April 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 15, 2010

  • Naperville, Illinois: psychologist sues homeless man saying she was defamed in his blog [AP]
  • Unusual case from Erie, Pa.: “Girl claims injuries from price scanner” [AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] Judge dismisses complaint for lack of evidence [Erie Times-News]
  • Too true: “Motion Control Advances Mean Future Generations Could Play Outside” [Brian Briggs, BBSpot via Free-Range Kids]
  • Huzzah for Husson: Maine university drops quest to add law school [Bangor Daily News]
  • Town sued over pool drowning of 13 year old boy seeks to add boy’s parents to suit [Ridgewood News, NorthJersey.com]
  • Manhattan judge sanctions Morelli Ratner law firm $6,000 over “spiteful”, “wasteful” lawsuit against former client [NYLJ, January]
  • “Canada is now a land that prosecutes comedians for their jokes.” [Steyn, Maclean's] Ron Coleman’s unkind comment: “I’ve heard their comedians. It’s about time.”
  • “Smokey the Bear’s rules for fire safety also apply to government: Keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep an eye on it.” [David Boaz, Cato at Liberty]

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March 9 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 9, 2010

Authorities in Queensland, Australia, intend to use spy-satellite photos to catch homeowners not in compliance with strict new safety rules on swimming pools, which include the mandatory clearing of trees near pool fences so that determined children cannot climb their way over. [Courier-Mail] More: Popehat.

In the United States, incidentally, there are some indications that a crackdown may be underway to enforce the new federal pool safety act passed last year and administered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission [Aquatics International, earlier] And (via AI) Billings, Montana is pulling the plug on a big public pool project, since “the city wasn’t willing to accept the financial risk and legal liability of owning a large aquatic center”. [Billings Gazette]

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“A school has banned children from wearing goggles during swimming lessons for fear they could hurt themselves.” [Telegraph (U.K.) via Cathy Gellis, who writes, "As a swimming teacher -- in fact, one who doesn't actually like her students to use goggles -- I feel competent, and confident, in saying this school is insane."]

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When compared, at least, with the comprehensively horrendous CPSIA, the other big consumer product safety law that Congress passed last year — the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act — might seem practically uncontroversial. That doesn’t mean it was good legislation, though. [Arizona Republic, Common Room, Coyote]

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