Childress v. Fox Associates, LLC, No. 18-2352 (8th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and award of attorney's fees, expenses, and costs to plaintiffs, in an action brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiffs, two individuals with hearing impairments and two organizations, filed suit seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, including mandated captions at all performances for which the Fox Theater received a captioning request two weeks in advance, publicity that captions were available along with a way to request them, and sale of tickets to deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons by non-telephonic means.
The court held that the Fox did not provide meaningful access to individuals with hearing impairments and that plaintiffs' claims were not subject to the undue burden defense. In this case, one captioned performance per run of a show denied hearing impaired persons an equal opportunity to gain the same benefit as persons without impairments and denied them meaningful access to benefits the Fox provided. The court noted, however, that if the volume of captioning requests in the future rises to the level of an undue burden on the Fox, nothing precludes Fox Associates from bringing its own lawsuit and seeking to modify the district court's order in this case. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to reduce its award of attorney's fees based on partial litigation success; in setting an hourly rate of $450; and in declining to reduce its fee award further for inefficiency.