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
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