I’ll be speaking at the Accesibility.com January event “Trends in Digital Accessibility Lawsuits” on January 25, 2022 beginning at 2:45 p.m. ET. The online event begins at 1:00 p.m. ET and will include Ken Nakata of Converge Accessibility and Reeve Segal of Denenberg Tuffley. I’ll outline the current state of website accessibility litigation and discuss the different players on the plaintiffs’ side, including their demands and strategies for early resolution. You can learn more at https://lnkd.in/eEBzk9fe.
ADA website defense
I’m re-cycling a picture from April because there’s another lawyer recycling a money-making strategy that’s been in use for quite a while. I’ve been hired in the last few weeks by four clients who received demand letters from a freshly minted one year lawyer in Alabama³ who claims to represent a vision impaired gentleman named Donald Wilson. He claims Mr. Wilson is prepared to file suit in the Eastern District of New York against businesses with websites that are not accessible. We’ve seen this before.¹ The demand letters seem to be cut and paste copies of demands from various serial filers, as is the draft complaint that accompany his letters. Although he was only admitted to the bar in 2020 and he does not appear to be a member of the New York bar the draft complaints are captioned to be filed in the Eastern District of New York. In addition to my own clients I have fielded calls from lawyers and businesses all over the country who received such demand letters, so he seems to regard the entire U.S. as his territory. I could find no record of him having filed a lawsuit in federal court anywhere in the United States. The letters do not suggest any in-depth knowledge of what website accessibility means or of the law concerning website accessibility.
There is no doubt that under one theory or another most websites associated with a physical place of business are required by the ADA to be accessible. At the same time, recent decisions in the Supreme Court, Fifth Circuit and other courts make it clear that serial plaintiffs are unlikely to have standing to sue or seek injunctive relief.² This is especially true of a plaintiff like Mr. Wilson who presumably lives in Alabama and cannot plausibly claim he wanted t0 buy furniture from stores that sell only locally. Serving customers with disabilities is a good practical reason to make your website accessible. Doing the right thing is a good moral reason to make your website accessible. Responding to a demand from someone like this lawyer is not.
¹ See my blogs Same old wine in a brand new bottle, Legal Justice Advocates – a New Kids on the Block Update and others that these link to.
² See my blogs Transunion v Ramirez – has the Supreme Court put an end to cheap standing in ADA litigation?, and the other blogs referred to in the footnotes.
³ I have removed the name from this blog because the attorney tells me that as of September 2022 he has gotten out of the ADA demand business and is pursuing other areas of practice.
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: Accessible websites, ADA defense, ADA Supreme Court, ADA website defense, Dominos v Robles
Domino’s Pizza has filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court challenging the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling in favor of Guillermo Robles.* The Court’s decision on whether to grant certiorari will have a profound impact on the possible “tsunami”** of website accessibility lawsuits, but we don’t have to wait for that decision to find the Petition itself interesting.
What I find most intriguing is Domino’s argument that the Ninth Circuit has adopted a new, third standard for application of the ADA to the internet. Along with other commentators I have always seen a two way split in the Circuits. Some (the First, Second and Seventh) simply hold that all websites are public accommodations subject to the ADA. It is a simple approach that leaves no room for doubt about a website’s accessibility obligation. Others (the Third, Sixth, Eleventh and Ninth Circuits) find that a website is covered by the ADA only if it has some nexus to a physical place of business. The exact nature of that nexus is a question being slowly answered as different situations are presented to the courts, but details aside, the nexus requirement seemed a common thread in decisions from these Circuits. More
Accessibility moots a website accessibility claim – a surprising decision that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Attorney's Fees, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Litigation Procedure, ADA Mootness, ADA Web Access, ADA Website Accessibility Tags: ADA defense, ADA website accessibility, ADA website defense, Diaz v Kroger, Katherine Failla
On Tuesday, June 4 Judge Katherine Failla of the Southern District of New York issued a critical decision finding that a website accessibility case could be mooted by simply fixing the website. Diaz v. Kroger Co., Case No. 1:18-cv-7953 (June 4, 2019). She also found that Kroger was not subject to personal jurisdiction in New York on more conventional grounds, but the mootness holding is critical. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Web Access, Internet Accessibility Tags: ADA attorney ethics, ADA defense, ADA website defense, Oscar Rosales
An April 3, 2019 decision from Texas’ Third District Court of Appeals should give pause to many lawyers filing website accessibility lawsuits under the ADA. In Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Rosales, Case No. 03-18-00147-CV (April 3, 2019)* the Court of Appeals wrote this about an ADA website demand letter:
“And regardless of whether Rosales “believes” that the ADA applies and that the WCAG guidelines establish ADA standards, the question of whether the ADA applies to websites is, as Rosales admits in his briefing to this Court, an unsettled issue that courts across the country disagree on. To that extent, his statement that “the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to websites” is, at best, a misrepresentation and, at worst, dishonest and deceitful.” More