I hate scare mongering lawyers, but it looks like the risk that a business will be sued under the ADA based on web accessibility has dramatically increased over the last few months. Web access lawsuits may be one of the most important kinds of ADA litigation in 2016. This is not because of any change in the law, which remains largely unchanged and undeveloped. It is instead because of a change in plaintiff’s lawyers. Since this summer Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kipela, a Pennsylvania law firm with a very active ADA litigation practice, has filed at least eleven new lawsuits alleging ADA violations based on web accessibility. The defendants are primarily national retailers or restauranteurs: Footlocker, Sears, Toys-R-Us, Brooks Brothers, Pep Boys, and Hard Rock Cafe among others. Following these lawsuits Carlson Lynch has apparently sent dozens, if not hundreds of demand letters to retailers all over the country offering to settle supposed ADA web access claims. My clients in different states have received such letters, and I’m sure they are only a small sampling of the total sent. It remains to be seen how aggressively Carlson Lynch will follow up these demand letters, but they will certainly serve as an example to other law firms who represent ADA plaintiffs, so a wave of such demands and possibly lawsuits can be expected. More
The Department of Justice has once again delayed regulations that would purport to set standards for web accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is not the first time DOJ has kicked the can a little further down the road with respect to web access regulations. The proposed regulations have been floating around since 2010 with no sign of when they might be finalized. Some lawyers fret about how the delay will affect businesses (see, Justice Department Delays Web Accessibility Regulations For At Least Three More Years, Leaving Businesses in Turmoil) while disability rights advocates continue to assert that, despite the language of the ADA, it does require accessible web sites (See, Fall 2015 Update: More Delay for DOJ Web Regulations). What’s a business to do? The answer is simple – find a web developer. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA Internet Web, ADA regulations, DOJ, Internet Tags: ada litigation, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Speech, internet, private lawsuits, World Wide Web
On June 26 the Department of Justice announced that it had filed Statements of Interest in two lawsuits concerning access to online content. The suits were filed against Harvard (National Ass’n of the Deaf v. Harvard University et al, Case No. 3:15-cv-30023 in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts) and M.I.T. (National Ass’n of the Deaf v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Case No. 3:15-cv-300024 in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts). Both Statements of Interest make the same claim; that is, that all online content must be accessible to those with disabilities if offered by a “public accommodation.” The phrase “public accommodation” as defined in the statute includes any “place of education.” More
I was surprised last month to see a major national law firm suggest, in its ADA blog, that internet businesses are legally required by the ADA to create accessible websites, and need to consult a lawyer about that requirement. While it is undoubtedly true that creating an accessible web site is good public relations, it is uncertain whether it is required by the ADA. Here is a brief look at where things stand, and a recommendation about who you need to consult.
The courts will ultimately decide what the ADA requires in terms of internet access. Right now we have a very clear decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that a web site is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the ADA. Recent district court decisions in the Ninth Circuit follow this precedent, and the Ninth Circuit remains the highest federal court to address the issue. More
Since 2010 the Department of Justice has been in the process of creating rules for web access under the ADA. No rules have been proposed, and this month the DOJ announced that it was splitting the proposed rule making into two parts and delaying the issuance of a notice of proposed rule making for both. The original proposed rules were to cover both Title II entities (cities other municipalities) and Title III entities (private businesses operating as places of public accommodation. The Title II rules will now proceed as a separate process with an earlier proposed date. More